Universities are cutting back on adjunct professors’ work hours to comply with Obamacare–an unfortunate wake up call for some liberal academics who supported the law.
“I understand that colleges don’t have money to throw around and there’s a larger issue here, but it is frustrating to feel like, that in the face of this legislation designed to help people, that instead it’s hurting people,” said Amy Poff, an adjunct professor who teaches art classes at various Maryland colleges, in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.
Under the president’s health care law, employees who work 30 hours each week are eligible for health benefits. Since many adjunct professors teach enough classes to meet that bar, college administrators must choose between paying extra healthcare costs or cutting back adjunct work hours.
For many universities–both public and private–the decision is an easy one: punish the adjuncts.
“Am I saying it’s the right thing to do? No,” said Robert Conlon, senior vice president at Sibson Consulting, a firm that advises colleges on employment decisions, in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “But is it the logical thing to do? Yes.”
Some 48 percent of universities–including 49 percent of public universities–have decided to place limitations on the number of hours adjunct professors can work, according to a survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed.
Adjuncts are not the only academics facing new burdens under Obamacare. Some universities are considering imposing fines on employees who smoke, or fail to get regular checkups.
Pennsylvania State University originally proposed a fine of $100 on employees who refused to submit to a battery of invasive, physical tests or answer questionnaires about their lifestyles and health habits. The policy was changed after faculty revolted; instead, those who take the test will earn a small cash reward. (RELATED: Profs must take invasive physical tests under new health care regime)
Still, most university human resources officers believe Penn State’s penalizing approach was the right one, and colleges may increasingly move in that direction as Obamacare is implemented.
The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, which monitors university employment issues, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but recently announced that about 60 percent of its members believed health costs would increase under Obamacare. Some 40 percent expected costs to stay the same, and none thought they would decrease.