THE BLOG
03/05/2014 06:18 pm ET Updated May 05, 2014

The Negative Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Community Colleges

While I believe fervently that all Americans should have access to affordable health care, as president of Ivy Tech Community College I have severe reservations with the Affordable Care Act's definition of full time employment.

The law stipulates that employers must provide health care to anyone working 30 hours a week or more. This is disastrous for community colleges. Adjunct faculty members are the life blood of these institutions. These individuals, who work part-time, bring real-life, real-time experience into our classrooms. They provide much needed diversity to our institutions and expose local business and industry to the vital work of these institutions.

What happens if the Affordable Care Act compels us to provide health insurance to anyone working 30 hours a week? At Ivy Tech, the impact would be between $10 - $12 million in additional costs to provide health care to more than 4,500 adjunct faculty. We struggle financially because we keep our tuition costs down. We do not have any way to finance these additional costs.

We have no choice but to limit the hours that our adjunct faculty works. To make life even more difficult for community colleges, it was ruled that for every hour of classroom/teaching time, we need to accommodate for 1.25 hours of prep time. This is .25 hours more than we expected it would be when looking at the potential impact on hours. All of this is an administrative nightmare and takes away from our mission to help our students succeed whether with a certificate, an associate's degree or to transfer to a four year institution.

Community colleges are in the vanguard of helping minority students. In contrast to four year colleges, we serve a higher percentage of students with Pell Grants as well as non-traditional students who have returned to school because their jobs have been outsourced, particularly in the manufacturing sector. I maintain that community colleges are more critical than any other institution in order to rebuild the middle class.

The limiting of hours just takes potential earnings away from our adjuncts, which is the larger impact that we are seeing. While all our faculty members are committed to our students, our adjuncts are crucial to their success. Without them, we may not be able to offer certain courses that require a very specialized knowledge such as court reporting, the culinary arts, or even something as complex as how to repair a wind turbine. We rely on adjuncts to strengthen our course offerings.

I believe so strongly that we must support our adjunct faculty that I recently testified in front of Congress and asked that 40 hours a week be the measurement for full-time employees. This would provide us more flexibility. We would still need further guidance and more clarity on how to treat the hours, but we would be able to manage the process more easily than how it is being done today.

In Indiana, we are grateful that Rep.Todd Young (Indiana-R) has brought the impact of the 30-hour per week rule on community colleges to the attention of his colleagues. We are not trying to circumvent the law. The Affordable Care Act should not put employers in the position of firing people or reducing their hours so that they aren't responsible for health care. We support raising the definition of full employment to 40 hours a week. This will enable us to keep our adjunct faculty, many of whom eventually become full time employees.

This discussion is necessary. Our government should help community colleges provide the best educational product we can while protecting the jobs of our adjunct faculty.

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