Last year, we reported on an Ohio university that capped hours for adjunct professors, so specific coverage requirements under Obamacare would not kick in.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, this approach to avoiding health insurance mandates is spreading to other institutions.
The federal health-care overhaul is prompting some colleges and universities to cut the hours of adjunct professors, renewing a debate about the pay and benefits of these freelance instructors who handle a significant share of teaching at U.S. higher-education institutions.
The Affordable Care Act requires large employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more starting in 2014, or face a penalty. The mandate is a particular challenge for colleges and universities, which increasingly rely on adjuncts to help keep costs down as states have scaled back funding for higher education.
A handful of schools, including Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania and Youngstown State University in Ohio, have curbed the number of classes that adjuncts can teach in the current spring semester to limit the schools’ exposure to the health-insurance requirement. Others are assessing whether to do so, or to begin offering health care to some adjuncts.
In Ohio, instructor Robert Balla faces a new cap on the number of hours he can teach at Stark State College. In a Dec. 6 letter, the North Canton school told him that “in order to avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act…employees with part-time or adjunct status will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.”
Mr. Balla, a 41-year-old father of two, had taught seven English composition classes last semester, split between Stark State and two other area schools. This semester, his course load at Stark State is down to one instead of two as a result of the school’s new limit on hours, cutting his salary by about a total of $2,000.
Interestingly, this approach is inspiring adjunct professors to unionize:
Health care is just one issue that has been pushing adjuncts to unionize. Many say they also are looking for better pay, job security and more respect….
Many adjuncts who hope to break into the academy have been unwilling to risk antagonizing the faculty or administrators who have the power to elevate them to the tenure-track jobs they covet. But as those jobs have become harder to land, adjuncts have become more motivated to challenge the status quo, said Maria Maisto, an adjunct teaching English composition at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and president of the New Faculty Majority, an organization created in 2009 to empower adjuncts.