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Health care cost reprieve for universities

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CURTOUSY OF DBDUO PHOTOGRAPHY FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Curtousy of DBduo Photography Flickr Creative Commons


By Megan Banta

Colleges and universities in Indiana will have more time to develop policies to comply with federal healthcare laws after the U.S. Treasury Department announced on Tuesday a one-year delay of a requirement of the Affordable Care Act.

The provision, which was set to go into effect in January, would have required large companies - including state institutions of higher education - to provide health benefits to all employees working 30 hours or more a week.

In preparation for the onset of the requirement, some colleges have cut hours for adjunct professors in order to avoid paying health insurance coverage for those employees, who only work part-time. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, they did so because it is difficult to estimate how many hours these employees, who are paid per course rather than by an hourly wage, require to teach a given class.

Officials at Ivy Tech Community College advised adjuncts to teach no more than nine credit hours in any given semester. Those adjuncts are already contractually limited in their time preparing for and managing courses outside class based on how many credit hours they teach.



Spokesman Jeff Fanter said the extra year means officials now have more "time to develop comprehensive reporting and tracking processes" for hours logged by adjunct professors - of which the college employs about 5,000 each year.

Fanter said the college will hold a meeting next week to discuss "re-evaluating loading for adjunct faculty," but has told part-time professors to continue focusing on the goal of nine credit hours for the time being.

Purdue University will also be re-evaluating policies to ensure compliance with healthcare regulations.

Eva Nodine, director of benefits at Purdue, said the university has not historically tracked adjunct hours.

Nodine said officials have been working on several different options, including developing a system to track hours and using a reasonable method for estimating hours of service - as many colleges and universities are doing at the recommendation of the Internal Revenue Service.

And they are glad for the extra time, she said.

"We're going to be a little big more prepared," she said.

Nodine said Purdue officials are hoping for "better regulations and guidance" soon so they can make a final decision on how to move forward with the transition.

Other colleges and universities have long-standing policies to ensure that adjuncts keep their part-time status.

All of the Indiana University campuses are among those, according to spokeswoman Margie Smith-Simmons.

Smith-Simmons said the adjuncts, of which there were about 2,400 in the most recent school year, "are not effected for IU as a whole"

She said that's because the university pays adjuncts by the course, not by hours, and it already has "existing academic affairs policies in place those ensure those adjuncts don't qualify for full-time status."

The requirement will now take effect in January 2015.

Megan Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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