Youngstown State University is the second institution to be public about cutting adjuncts’ hours to avoid Affordable Care Act-related costs.
The Ohio university announced its plans in a campuswide memo Thursday, hours after an internal department memo from an English professor warning colleagues about the cuts was leaked to the media.
“A provision under the [Affordable Care Act] requires employers to share in the responsibility of providing health insurance to full-time employees,” the campus memo reads. “Effective this academic year, part-time faculty will not be allowed to teach more than 24 hours over fall, spring and summer."
Youngstown’s announcement comes just weeks after Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania announced  it was preemptively cutting hundreds of adjuncts’ hours to avoid an estimated $6 million in employee health care costs when the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate begins in January 2014.
Widely known as Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act defines full-time employees as those who work 30 or more hours per week, on average. Both Youngstown’s and Allegheny’s new policies aim to limit the number of adjuncts who qualify for that status by cutting their hours.
Ronald A. Cole, a spokesman for Youngstown, said the university’s statement corrects the earlier internal memo, which states that the new teaching cap is 18 hours per year. Previously, there was no cap. He estimated that 10 of 813 part-time faculty members of currently teach more than 24 hours per year and will be immediately impacted by the change. Those adjuncts are concentrated in the math department. All other adjuncts are indirectly affected, as they can no longer accept additional courses that might put them over the cap.
Cole said the university had been considering the financial impact of the Affordable Care Act for some time, and that it was not alone. “[This] is an issue that is facing all universities and colleges across Ohio and the nation,” he said. “We are in consultation with other public universities in Ohio as we all try to address this situation in a fair and equitable manner.”
Matt Williams, vice president of the New Faculty Majority, which represents the interests of non-tenure-track faculty across the country, said Youngstown’s announcement could signal a coming wave of similar moves from publicly funded colleges and universities trying to game the system.
“The government should not be in the business of getting around its own laws,” he said.
Williams said he was contacting legislators and drafting a plan to appeal to government entities involved in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to prevent such moves, which threaten adjuncts’ quality of life and the quality of higher education.
“This is really going to compound the issue of poverty among contingent faculty,” he said. “What’s likely to happen is you’re going to have some folks who are going to give up and simply leave the profession altogether.”