At least three Northeast Ohio colleges and universities are seeking legal advice about implementing the Affordable Care Act for part-time faculty in 2014.
Stark State, 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.
The health-care act “is challenging all institutions to manage their human and fiscal resources differently to remain viable,” Stark State Provost Dorey Diab and Treasurer Thomas Chiappini jointly wrote to adjuncts last week.
Tax-supported colleges and universities statewide typically pay 15 percent of health-care premiums for full-time employees. They pay nothing for part-timers, who might teach one course at one school or several courses at multiple universities.
The new law, dubbed Obamacare, will change that, requiring employers to provide health care to part-time faculty who work at least 30 hours a week or face penalties of as much as $2,000 per full-time employee.
But determining which adjuncts are full time is complicated, as they do not punch a clock. While they work set hours in the classroom, many also work outside of it, preparing lesson plans, advising students and grading homework.
Youngstown State took steps this month to limit the number of part-timers’ credit hours to 12 a semester — about four classes each term — or 24 a year, YSU spokesman Ron Cole said.
That formula aims to ensure that adjuncts’ workload does not surpass an average of 29 hours a week, one hour beneath the federal trigger for employer- provided health care.
“Part-time faculty at YSU currently do not and have never received health insurance benefits from the university,” Cole wrote in an email.
“So, in a sense, what we are doing here is maintaining the status quo. What we have essentially done is to more closely define what a part-time faculty member is.”
He said 10 of the university’s 800 adjuncts will be required to reduce their work schedules in the next term so the university won’t have to pay for their health care.
Cole said the new law will look back a year at employee work hours, so it was essential for the university to put a policy in place now.
Youngstown State and the University of Akron, which has more than 1,000 part-time faculty, have the highest numbers of faculty adjuncts among the state’s four-year universities.
At Stark State College in Jackson Township, administrators notified adjuncts last week that some schedules would be adjusted starting Jan. 1 to keep their workload under 30 hours.
The college is determining how many of its 853 adjunct faculty will be affected, spokeswoman Irene Lewis Motts said.
While colleges and universities see reducing part-timers’ hours as a way to cut costs, some adjuncts see it differently.
Some will make less money because their workloads will be reduced and they still will not have health care.
This maneuver “is despicable, immoral, and nullifies the spirit and the intent of what President Obama’s health-care bill intended,” a Stark State adjunct wrote to the Beacon Journal. He asked not to be identified for fear of losing his job.
Cleveland State and some other universities seeking legal counsel have been referred to Brennan, Manna and Diamond in Akron, the attorney general’s office said.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.