Increase Student Employee Pay at Berklee College of Music

Increase Student Employee Pay at Berklee College of Music

114 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
Petition to
Berklee College of Music

Why this petition matters

Started by Jaime Costa

Student Employees at Berklee College of Music are vital to the everyday function, operation, and interest of the school - whether it be Admissions Office employees fielding and welcoming new students, Classroom Support staff keeping academic technology in working order, or the various performance, stage, and tech teams acting as the backbone for Berklee’s performances.

As the ninth-most expensive city according to QuickenLoans, Boston has a high cost of living - 51.2% above the national average. Paying rent on an apartment, which is the only viable option for college students, costs 3.6x the national average, meaning that residents typically spend nearly 70% of their income simply on keeping a roof over their heads. 

Currently, Berklee generally compensates its student employees on three tiers: Student Employee 1, 2, and 3. As of January 1, 2022 and before taxes, Tier 1 employees make $14.50/hr, Tier 2 employees make $14.75/hr, and Tier 3 employees make $15.25/hr. Currently, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $14.50/hr, meaning that student employees are being paid either exactly, or just barely over, minimum wage. All of this information is directly from the Berklee Website (


Further, student employees are only permitted to work up to 20 hours each week. The minimum wage is unsustainable for anyone, let alone a student at what is already one of the pricier colleges in the country, whose hours are being artificially restricted.

Here’s some facts and figures:

  • In order to pay for the 2021-2022 academic year’s tuition alone (fall & spring semester, not including other expenses including transportation, room and board, textbooks, health insurance, etc.), a Tier 1 employee would need to work 3,083 hours in a year, or roughly 60 hours a week. This number does not account for weeks that Berklee’s campus is closed for holidays, inclement weather, and breaks.
    • A Tier 3 employee would need to work roughly 57 hours a week to pay tuition.
    • While this is a very unlikely scenario - if that Tier 1 employee were living on-campus and was responsible for fees, they would need to work just under 99 hours a week at minimum wage.

  • According to RentCafe, the average rent for an apartment in Boston is $3,549/mo, not including utilities and other living expenses. To afford this, a Tier 1 employee would need to work 55 hours per week.
    Of all apartments, apartments available for less than $2000/mo make up only 4% of the market.
    • Apartments available for less than $1000/mo make up less than 0.1% of the market.
    • Private rooms in larger apartments are an option, but these are often expensive as well. As of March 5, 2022, the cheapest private room on Berklee’s off-campus housing site starts at $650/mo. If a Tier 1 employee is working 20 hours a week, they would be spending just over 68% of their monthly income on rent, leaving little wiggle-room for utilities, food, medication, transportation, and other necessities.
    • The two most affordable neighborhoods in the Boston area are Hyde Park and Mattapan. Hyde Park is nearly 7 miles south of Berklee’s campus and only accessible via MBTA Commuter Rail, whereas a commuter student from Mattapan would need to travel roughly 5 miles via either a bus and subway, or two light-rails and a bus. What money is saved in rent is immediately lost in the cost of transportation.

According to MIT, a living wage for a single adult in Suffolk County, MA would be $20.35/hr, however this assumes that an individual is working full-time, something that Berklee simply does not allow its students to do. Some rough math indicates that a livable wage from 20 hours per week would be north of $40/hr. While this sounds like a very high number, Berklee’s 2019 endowment was $363 million. While students are not given access to the internal finances of Berklee’s operations, there is almost certainly enough room to increase wages. 

Berklee College of Music claims to be committed to the safety, health, and well-being of its students. However, paying its employees what can only be described as poverty wages when considering the cost of living in Boston is among the highest in the nation is in direct conflict with that idea. The Berklee Administration needs to have open and honest discussions with its student employees, who must be fairly and adequately compensated for their valuable contributions to Berklee’s campus and artistic drive, and these discussions need to happen sooner rather than later in an uncertain pandemic economy.

114 have signed. Let’s get to 200!