If you are adjunct faculty at an Ohio college or university who has received an email, a letter or some other communication informing you of your institution’s policy regarding the number of credit hours you will be permitted to teach in the future, we invite you to forward that information to the Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The communication from your institution may or may not admit that the information being shared is in response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which mandates that as of Jan. 1, 2014, large employers must provide health insurance for employees who work 30 hours per week or more.
But the fact is that colleges and universities throughout the country are cutting the workloads of adjuncts in response to this new regulation, and their actions are contrary to the intent of the new law.
Determining work hours for adjunct faculty
Determining work hours presents another problem. A recent IRS ruling has determined “that failing to take into account grading and prep is not reasonable” when it comes to adding up employee hours.
Yet when calculating the number of hours that adjunct faculty spend in preparation for their courses and in grading student work, some institutions are applying a formula that is inappropriately standardized, according to Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority.
For all of these reasons, the OPTFA is collecting information about the response of Ohio institutions to the ACA. And we will take that data with us to Washington, D.C. for the April 23 hearing on this issue held by the IRS and the Treasury Department.
Ohio institutions respond to the ACA
Initially, five Ohio institutions, Youngstown State University, Stark State College in North Canton, Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Baldwin Wallace University and Kent State University, acted to limit the number of classes adjuncts can teach in order to ensure that the schools will not be mandated to provide health insurance for adjunct faculty. And other institutions are working to formulate a response to the ACA.
Adjuncts at Stark State received a memo in which they were told 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.”
YSU is restricting part-time employees, including adjunct professors and lecturers, to 29 hours a week or less, according to an email sent to English department adjuncts. That translates to a maximum of a 12-credit course load per academic year.
As of July 1, part-time faculty loads at Lakeland will be adjusted “to comply with the requirements of the act,” according to a March 19, 2013, email sent to part-time faculty. And Kent State, where 65 percent of classes are taught by adjunct faculty, is limiting part-timers to 29 credits per academic year.
Baldwin-Wallace, which employs as many as 225 adjuncts a semester, held a recent meeting for department chairs at which the institutional response to the ACA was shared. As a result, adjuncts who teach in the English Department received a March 27 email stating that as of this fall, adjuncts will be limited to teaching “no more than 3 composition sections each semester…as a result of the coming of Obamacare, which requires that employers provide health benefits for any employees working 30 hours a week or more.”
At Sinclair Community College in Dayton, administrators estimate that health care costs could increase by up to $4.2 million if they provide health care benefits to the 423 part-time employees, including 191 adjuncts, who could qualify for coverage, according to the Dayton Daily News.
Other colleges around the state are seeking legal advice about how they should respond to ACA mandates. Cleveland State and the Northeast Ohio Medical University are among 11 tax-supported universities statewide that have asked the state attorney general to assign special counsel for health care, according to a recent story in the Akron Beacon Journal.
IRS collects public comments, will hold hearing; media respond
The Department of the Treasury and the IRS collected 380 comments on the issue of Shared Responsibility for Employers Regarding Health Coverage (REG-138006-12) and will hold an April 23, 2013, public hearing on the matter as well, at which OPTFA and NFM will present the data we collect. A comment from David Wilder, Co-Chair of the Organizing Committee of OPTFA and comments from NFM were among the 380 collected.
“Counting Adjuncts’ Hours,” a March 26 story in Inside Higher Ed, reported on two different proposals for counting faculty work hours. The American Council on Education, representing the nation’s nonprofit and public colleges, wants the work of adjuncts compared to that of non-tenure-track faculty. NFM argues that the fairer comparison is between tenure-track faculty and adjuncts because the latter often advise students and provide service to the institution.
An essay published in Inside Higher Ed on the same day asserts that, “More than two-thirds of the faculty providing instruction in nonprofit higher education are currently employed off the tenure track, and their numbers continue to rise.”
The authors call upon institutions to create new solutions to the problem of part-time and non-tenure-track faculty, because “our failure to acknowledge and address the changing faculty, we have made it unnecessarily difficult for a majority of the faculty to do their jobs.”
And in “Emotional Labor and Ethical Hiring Practices in Academia,” Gwendolyn Beetham makes a plea for ethical practices in academic hiring.
Ohio colleges’ and universities’ written responses to adjunct faculty about the Affordable Care Act
- YSU Memo from HR to Department Chairs and Deans Re: Part-time Faculty Employment, Nov. 29, 2012
- YSU Email to English Department Adjuncts
- Stark State College Memo to Part-Time Faculty and Staff Re: ACA, Dec. 6, 2012
- Lakeland Community College Director of Human Resources Catherine Bush email to part-time faculty regarding the ACA, March 19, 2013. An Excel document was attached to the original email that outlined how many hours the college estimates that adjuncts work per course.
- Baldwin Wallace University English Department Chair email to English Department Adjuncts, March 27, 2013
- University of Akron Wayne College email, March 12, 2013.
- Cuyahoga Community College email, April 11, 2013