Obamacare 101: Colleges cut faculty hours

The health care overhaul is prompting some schools to reduce adjunct professors' work time to avoid paying for health insurance.

By Aimee Picchi Apr 25, 2013 2:20PM

Stock photo of a university lecture hall (© Lisa Klumpp/Getty Images)Obamacare's impact is expanding to the ivory tower, with some adjunct faculty members finding they're caught up in the turmoil surrounding the national health care insurance overhaul. 

More colleges are limiting the hours their adjunct faculty members can work, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Why? The colleges want to avoid having to pay for health insurance coverage for the adjunct professors, given that the Affordable Care Act requires large employers to cover staffers working more than 30 hours a week. 

But as the Chronicle points out, adjunct faculty members are rarely paid by the hour. Instead, the norm is to pay them by the course, which makes it complicated to estimate how many hours each professor or lecturer requires to prepare and manage a class. 

Adding to the pressure is the growing reliance on adjuncts to carry teaching loads at colleges and universities. A study published earlier this year by Inside Higher Ed found that 65% of colleges and universities rely significantly on non-tenure-track faculty members such as adjuncts. 

These instructors are increasingly taking the place of tenured faculty members because they're cheaper. On average, their jobs pay $2,987 for a three-credit course, according to a January survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Meanwhile, the average annual pay for a tenured professor (associate level) is $88,306, according to the American Association of University Professors.

The Community College of Allegheny County, Pa., estimated that providing health insurance to its 400 part-time employees would add at least $6 million in costs. The institution has responded by cutting the workload limit for adjuncts to 10 credits per semester, down from 12. 

Expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect next year, is "simply unaffordable," college administrator David Hoovler told the Chronicle. 

Colleges are just the latest sector to anticipate the effects of Obamacare. Regal Entertainment (RGC) came under fire from some customers over its decision to cut hours for thousands of nonsalaried employees to avoid providing health insurance, while Dunkin' Brands (DNKN) is pushing the government to narrow its definition of a full-time worker.

With adjuncts pressured to work less than 30 hours, some feel they have to lie to keep their jobs. 

"Because of the grading load, I've been put in a position twice this semester where I've just had to lie about the number of hours I actually worked. I don't want to have to make a choice between having a job or not," Allison G. Armentrout, an adjunct instructor at Ohio's Stark State College, told the publication. 

She said some adjunct faculty worry they won't get contract renewals if they go over the college's 30-hour limit. 

"There's potential for a lot of issues there," she said. "There will be a lot more professors working at McDonald's."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi

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Apr 25, 2013 2:46PM

The unintended consequences of Obamacare continues to lead to fewer and fewer jobs.  Or is this his "Jobs" program that he's been pushing?  Or maybe it's part of the "economic revovery" he says we're in.  Bottom line - none seem to be working....

Apr 25, 2013 3:08PM

Maybe lefties should boycott their local establishments of higher learning as was suggested in the same instance of Regal Cinemas for daring to state that Obamacare WILL RESULT in people either losing their jobs or having their hours scaled back.


Now get out there and protest your local university\college for being rightwing stooges. 

Apr 25, 2013 3:25PM
Obamacare is the ultimate socialist-nanny state-communist-antibusiness-job killing-dumb-democrat program.
Apr 25, 2013 3:26PM
You know who is going to pay the cost for all the shysters that get "free" insurance don't you?  That's right....you and me.
Apr 25, 2013 3:33PM
What Americans do best is learn the rules and then screw you with the rules.  In this case, the Obamacare B.S. can be avoided by the employer limiting employees hours and they are lining up to do it.  It is no different than an old couple that don't get married so that they can maximize their social security take or a young couple that don't get married to maximize their earned income credit and government subsidies.  Americans are wired to learn of the rules imposed by the government and then screw the government with them.  So, it looks like the government has screwed itself again.
Apr 25, 2013 3:53PM
While the Affordable Care Act attempts to solve the "freeloader" problem (people using the ER and not paying the large bills) it fails to address the larger long term issues Healthcare faces. The US spends more money per person than any other country on earth and still has a poor infant mortality rate when compared to other industrialized nations. If anyone has been to the hospital recently or in the past 20 knows that lines are long and prices are high. Health insurance hides people from the true cost of medical care as they only know how much they pay out of pocket. Unless We make large changes to every level of healthcare we will continue to bankrupt ourselves and the country as a whole
Apr 25, 2013 4:56PM
Seems like we are getting 2 of these stories a week.  Hey MSN, why weren't you covering this BEFORE the bill was passed??
Apr 25, 2013 3:26PM
Less hours and unaffordable health insurance. As Hannibal Smith used to say,"I love it when a plan comes together".
Apr 25, 2013 3:03PM

it can't sell. another pig in the poke here folks. we have another solyndra, A123, fisker debacle here. they can put lipstick on it but it won't market. if it won't market, nobody buys it.

Apr 25, 2013 4:56PM
There is a certain irony in that most educators are far left wing socialist democrats.   It will be interesting to see how they cope with having their pay slashed.   

Maybe they should apply for the Obamacare exemptions.  They certainly donate enough money to the democrats to qualify for the exemption....
Apr 25, 2013 5:19PM
Welcome to Obama's America! You will now work three minimum wage 29 hour a week part time jobs to support you and your family. I hope all you democrats are all very happy now! 
Apr 25, 2013 3:14PM
the supremes got it right. before the people rejected it, they had to uphold it. sorry nanci, harry. you don't rule. the people rule!
Apr 25, 2013 3:46PM
There's nothing ivory about the ivory tower.  It's a business.  And abusing workers, in this case professors, is nothing new.  But they sure act all high and mighty.
Apr 25, 2013 3:47PM
The people most hurt by the Affordable care Act are small business who are forced to offer health insurance to employees. The best solution would be to take healthcare away from employers and offer state and federal insurance pools. This would allow ALL US companies to be more competitive in the global economy.
Apr 25, 2013 3:55PM

We don't have a right or a left problem, or a democrat republican problem, we have an american problem.  Until we can all come together as one and take control of our own country, the weasels in office will always win.  Most of you who do the name calling seem to fail to understand this and I am referring to both sides.  Yes we need healthcare reform, yes you need to break some eggs to make an omelet, but let's get it together please.  The 1% have the money but the 99% have the power and right now the 99% suck at being american.  Do not vote republican or democrat in the next elections, let's try something new here shall we?

Apr 25, 2013 4:29PM
When was the last time a cure for a disease was found by a private company then used to completely eradicate the disease? Is is far more profitable to treat instead of cure and for this reason a cure to cancer will NEVER be found.
This is the fundamental problem with our healthcare system. Sick people are more profitable then healthy people for drug companies and private hospitals.
Apr 25, 2013 4:53PM
The largest barrier to having a good leader are elections. American elections make sure any "good" candidate will be defeated by monied interest who make sure their straw men "both republicans and democrats" win so they can due their bidding. Without the corrupting influence of money in politics we could hope for better leaders but special interest will make sure their influence will never die. With the introduction of SuperPACs this problem has only got worse.
Apr 25, 2013 6:25PM
This is not something new;  they've been doing this for years and years at the community college and university levels and epecially to women teaching English, Speech, History kind of courses.  In the meantime administrative "executive" type positions keep being created at six figure salaries and the top positions are paid like the officers of fortune 500 companies. 
Apr 25, 2013 10:12PM
Did not anyone understand that this would happen in every employment sector? McDonalds, Wallmart....and thousands of other companies are going to cut full time hours to 28 hours per week. These previously full time employees will first get State unemployment benefits to cover the decrease in pay. We will see a dramatic increase in part time jobs, a huge decrease in full time jobs......and guess who in reality will pay for Obamacare...ALL OF US! From Taxes, AND from inflation...all products will rise in cost! Businesses will have to increase prices. It's economics 101. The Goverment does not make money....Busineses and empolyess do! INFLATION....JOB LOSS....DECREASE IN  ANNUAL INCOME. HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTS.....CASH IN ARTIFICIAL GAINS IN THE STOCK MARKET....AND GET READY FOR INFLATION. YOU CAN ARGUE ITS A GOOD PLAN....BUT.....IT IS GOING TO WACK US ALL!
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