Four colleges to cut faculty hours to Part-time status, blames Obamacare
Four public colleges and universities: Florida’s Palm Beach State College, Pennsylvania’s Community College of Allegheny County, Ohio’s Youngstown State University, and New Jersey’s Kean University, are all planning to move adjunct and “contingent” faculty members to part-time status in order to avoid an Obamacare provision requiring businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide health coverage for at least 95 percent of their workers.
Gwen Bradley, a senior program officer for the American Association of University Professors, said the AAUP’s National Committee on contingent faculty was “deeply concerned” by the emerging trend.
“Adjuncts are very precarious anyway,” said Bradley. “They usually have very low wages, and are often already below the thresholds for health care. But for those people who have it, being cut down to lose it is very devastating.”
Only contingent faculty—as opposed to full-time, tenure-track faculty—would be affected by the change in policy. Since the Affordable Care Act requires that employers provide health care to any employee who works 30 hours per week or more, universities like Palm Beach State College have opted to cap the time that contingent faculty are allowed to work at just below the 30-hour benchmark.
“It’s about having their course load reduced so they’re teaching less and having less paid for their salaries,” said Craig Smith, the director of the American Federation of Teacher’s higher education division. For many contingent faculty members, “it’s not like they were receiving health care in the first place.”
Teachers’ associations like AAUP and AFT are bracing for the shift. Next week, AFT will host a webinar for its members addressing “the implications of the Affordable Care Act for contingent faculty.” In the meantime, both organizations are hoping the federal government will require universities to count time spent outside the classroom as part of adjunct faculty’s work hours.
Bradley applauded a recent IRS ruling which she said determined “that failing to take into account grading and prep is not reasonable” when it comes to calculating employee hours. Smith said that AFT had been “making comments to the Treasury Department and encouraging them to write the regulations in such a way that for part-time faculty, the hours they work are counted correctly.”