New IRS Rules Designed to Help Adjunct Faculty Hurt Them
New rules mandating full-time benefits for instructors teaching 30 hours predictably led to their hours being cut.
The IRS issued rules requiring colleges to provide full benefits to adjunct teachers who work at least 30 hours a week. Naturally, the schools are cutting the hours of their adjunct faculty.
HuffPo (“IRS: Adjunct Faculty Hours Must Be Calculated With ‘Reasonable’ Method“):
The Internal Revenue Service put colleges and universities on warning with new proposed rules issued this month, warning them not to skimp when counting the hours adjunct faculty work. The guidelines from the IRS could be critical to ensuring whether part-time college instructors receive health care benefits as new Affordable Care Act laws take effect.
The IRS noted in the Federal Register that “educational organizations generally do not track the full hours of service of adjunct faculty, but instead compensate adjunct faculty on the basis of credit hours taught.” In short, most colleges are only paying part-time instructors for time spent in a classroom, and nothing for time spent grading or preparing.
The Treasury Department and the IRS are considering and “invite further comment on how best to determine the full-time status of employees” like educators, who may work many hours after students leave the classroom.
Starting in January 2014, any employee working 30 hours or more per week will be considered a full-time faculty member and will be entitled to health insurance through an employer under new federal rules, with an exception for certain small businesses. So far, several schools have cut adjuncts’ hours to avoid the requirement and save cash. Matt Williams, vice president of New Faculty Majority, a group that advocates for collective bargaining rights of adjunct instructors and professors, told The Huffington Post in November he expects this type of action to happen more often.
Colleges say they need further guidance from the federal government, and without adequate state appropriations, they can’t afford to provide insurance.
In an ideal world, colleges would hire adjuncts only rarely and for the purposes of teaching niche courses. Most courses would be taught by full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty making a decent living and fully committed to the life of the institution and its students.
Instead, adjuncts are hired in droves to teach introductory courses almost solely for the purposes of saving money. Full-time professors command decent salaries and benefits and accrue generous retirements, whereas adjuncts are paid a meager sum on a per-course basis. The national average is less than $3000 per course, with some institutions paying as little as a third of that.
The IRS is of course right that adjunct work hours should include time they spend working for the university, even if they’re not in front of the classroom. They are, after all, expected to grade papers and examinations and prepare for their lectures. The redefinition of “full-time” as a 30 hour week strikes me as odd, since we’ve traditionally defined it as 40 hours and most of us work more than that; but I’m generally in favor of making it less desirable to employ not-quite-full-time employees for the sole purpose of screwing them out of benefits.
But given the mindset that adjuncts are there to cut costs—which is both unseemly and understandable, given resource constraints in recent years—that institutions would cut hours rather than undermine their whole agenda in hiring adjuncts was perfectly predictable. There are more qualified candidates to teach courses in many disciplines than there are courses to teach. So, rather than having one academic gypsy string together four courses to eke out a meager living, they’ll instead have two or three or four people teach those courses. The net result will be even worse for adjuncts than the status quo ante.
Yes. Lord knows we would not want to be forced to cut the salary of the Chancellor, would we now…..
Somehow the screaming neon elephant in the room was missed or at least glossed over.
The 30 hour thing is a function of Obamacare. That’s the underlying rule to which those IRS regs are making reference. Part-time workers who work 29 hours or less under Obamacare need not be afforded any health insurance coverages. So what are employers doing? Obviously they’re cutting hours. Across all industries. Across all job descriptions. From adjunct professors, to customer service representatives, to office administrative workers, etc., full-time employees are being converted to part-timers under 30 hours and part-timers who were working more than 30 hours are having their hours cut too. So as not to provide them with health insurance. Because after Obamacare health insurance is too expensive for employers, whether you’re a community college, or a big university, or a wholesaler, or a landscaping business, or a manufacturing plant, or a retailer. And everywhere else in between.
When all is said and done quite literally millions upon millions of people out there will have less take home pay and worse benefits packages post-Obamacare than they did pre-Obamacare. Because of Obamacare. Go figure.
But the ones that are left are better off. Look at it as an employment plan to employ more adjuncts. It’s a plan to give jobs to all of those unemployable new PhDs.
Welcome to Obamacare. Employers who can, will shift as many workers to fewer than 30 hours to avoid the additional costs of having to insure them.
Obama is creating a nation of people with multiple part time jobs. People who in total will be working far more than the 30 hour cut off, and also paying the new Obamacare tax, because they can’t afford to purchase it.
That said, I do think universities counting only the hours an adjunct professor works isn’t fair. Most full time professors and teachers work on a salary which assumes there is going to be work outside of the classroom and presumably compensates for it.
The beancounters will find some way to work their way around the rules that saves them the most money. My guess is some universities will cut adjunct classroom hours and start putting more classroom hours on the schedules of the full time and tenured professors.
I routinely get chided for the, ahem, preposterous notion that people, including employers, react to tax and regulatory matters. They don’t just get stuffed unless the balance of negotiating power is with the employee. Think minimum wage.
This whole phenomenon was predictable, and predicted. The shame is as one commenter snarked, an administrator didn’t take the hit (or God forbid, the football coach). But that’s a value judgment and a rare event in today’s academic marketplace.
It is a matter of values. Deciding that the football coach or the administratation budget should be protected and instead cutting adjunct hours is a choice.
The problem is cultural, I guess.
Any thoughts, James, on a better fix?
As Drew notes, the “balance of power” is decidedly not with the employee. The Left’s usual argument to address this is unionization (and governmental rules structured to benefit unions). I think I’ve got a pretty good idea what Drew thinks of that. I suspect you agree. Well, then… what?
Actually, specifically with respect to healthcare coverage, the answer is obvious (decouple employment and healthcare insurance, and do it the way the rest of the civilized world does it). That doesn’t address the remaining compensation package, but it does deal with healthcare, and that’s pretty important.
I know James is with me there.
Decoupling healthcare from employment is a start but Obamacare didn’t do it that way, instead they went the mandate route, which basically means part time work and no insurance for a large majority of people.
Unionization won’t work, because part time employees aren’t represented by the unions. Unions will only protect the employees who are already making full salary with benefits.
@Just Me: “Employers who can, will shift as many workers to fewer than 30 hours to avoid the additional costs of having to insure them.”
Okay, then. Let’s pass a new law. Let’s throw these sons of bitches in jail
Yep, that’s right. You screw over your workers, you steal their hours, you cheat them on salary, you make them work the same amount but keep part of it off the books so you don’t have to pay what they’re worth — yeah, ten years, hard labor.
Apparently the right has decided that it’s perfectly appropriate for billionaires to increase their fortunes by stealing from their workers. And many businesses have decided that as much money as possible must be taken from employees and given to management and stockholders.
The right says we can’t possibly impose huge tax liabilities on billionaires to make it less worth their while to steal, because freedom.
So I say jail And while they’re in there, let them work in prison industries for five cents an hour and see what it’s like
You are quite correct that the Obama administration and the Dems in congress decided against the decoupling route. They made a political calculation, which seems correct to me, that a more radical change would be even more easily attacked and scuttled.
If the Dems had put proper single-payer universal healthcare on the table, seriously what do you think would’ve happened?
@Just Me: “The beancounters will find some way to work their way around the rules that saves them the most money. My guess is some universities will cut adjunct classroom hours and start putting more classroom hours on the schedules of the full time and tenured professors. ”
Or here’s a thought — let’s stop pretending that the bean counters are the only ones that should define the mission of a business or an institution. Let the bean counters say “Hey, we could save a lot of money by screwing over the people who work for us.” And let the administration say “Yes, but that would fundamentally contradict everything an institution of higher learning is supposed to stand for, and thus we must find a different way to address whatever problems we may face.”
Or we could just keep shovelling cash to the richest of the rich and screwing everyone else. I’m pretty sure I know which side you come down on.
The healthcare lobby wouldn’t allow single payer. Now it’s coming whether they like it or not.
@Just Me: “Unionization won’t work, because part time employees aren’t represented by the unions. Unions will only protect the employees who are already making full salary with benefits. ”
Unionization will work… except that the universities have been fighting for decades to make sure that adjuncts can’t unionize. Hell, they were fighting bloody battles to keep grad student TAs from unionizing, and fighting as dirty as any big company.
Unionization won’t work as long as billionaires dump their billions into paying lawmakers to pass anti-union legislation.
I work in a school district (unionized) that routinely screwed over the various non unionized workers (the part time and non teachers/secretaries/janitors workers). They eventually cut hours to save insurance, took away sick time and holiday pay for the non union workers. The unions weren’t trying to make things better for these workers, they were making sure the full time union members were protected.
Unions work for union members not every employee (think about how when the government stepped in for GM the union was protected, but the non union workers weren’t).
Apparently the right has decided that it’s perfectly appropriate for billionaires to increase their fortunes by stealing from their workers.
The right didn’t write the Obamacare law, remember they were locked out of negotiations and told to shove it. They were also told they could find out what was in it after it was passed.
People months ago were talking about the employer mandate leading to exactly what it is leading to. The GOP isn’t perfect, but their hands are clean when it comes to the current problem.
Let us weep for the poor adjunct who kept paying into the the higher ed scam until they were unemployable elsewhere in society. At least beyond, the level of the non-degreed barrista.
Of course, this 30 hour limit is hitting the unskilled worker at the fast food joint, as well as the waitress at the college watering hole.
But to speak of the privileged, the solution is simple, fire a few non-teaching administrators and reduce the salary of the university president, that should pay for the healthcare, for a while. Or, jack up the tuition actually paid by students incurring life-crippling debt. Oh, wait, that last is less tenable since incoming freshmen are getting wise to the higher ed scam and foregoing four winters at the university club med. They don’t have fancy credentials but they don’t have crippling debt to pay off with a theater arts degree either.
LOL. Interesting “history” you have there.
But regardless, you are correct that The Right did not pass Obamacare, though it was certainly based upon prior efforts by the Right. The mandate, in particular, was a right-wing idea to deal with the free rider problem.
Liberals would happily go for single payer. Dem senators beholden to healthcare insurance money would not, of course. The GOP had absolutely no intention in engaging in teh healthcare reform effort, so no help there. So we got what we got. A patch. The code itself is a mess, but we couldn’t realistically do a re-write. So we patched it. And there are still bugs. Go figure.
That would indeed be a better solution. That sort of thinking is distinctly “outside the box” at this point, unfortunately.
@Just Me: “I work in a school district (unionized) that routinely screwed over the various non unionized workers (the part time and non teachers/secretaries/janitors workers). They eventually cut hours to save insurance, took away sick time and holiday pay for the non union workers. The unions weren’t trying to make things better for these workers, they were making sure the full time union members were protected.”
Well… yeah. And you know something? When I get a job and my agent negotiates my deal? He doesn’t do the deal for people he doesn’t represent… because he doesn’t represent them. A union’s job is to fight for its members. If anyone in this equation should have been looking out for the non-unionized workers it was the school disctrict, which has some obligations to them (which they gladly ignored).
A teachers’ union is Our Little Sisters of Charity. It’s a union. Why is this hard for you?
“Unions work for union members not every employee (think about how when the government stepped in for GM the union was protected, but the non union workers weren’t).”
Well… yeah. That’s why we need to make it easier for workers to join unions. But your party keeps conspiring with the Waltons and the owners of McDonald’s to make that harder and harder and harder. That’s not the fault of the unions. It’s your fault for voting for these scumbags.
“The GOP isn’t perfect, but their hands are clean when it comes to the current problem. ”
Because their solution was to let uninsured people die. Oh, after going bankrupt. Yeah, your hands are clean. Except for all the blood.
@wr: Umm, a teachers union ISN’T Our Little Sisters of Charity.
If you’ve got to have typos, they might as well undercut your entire argument…
This is a stupid, short-sighted austerity measure that will cost more and destroy value in the long run. It’s more work for the faculty who now have to deal with managing multiple adjuncts where they previously had just one person to oversee, more paperwork for the administration to deal with (x) number of new employees to cover the additional hours and trying to actually find 3 qualified people for teaching a class where they previously only needed to find 1, and more work for the students who now have to deal with multiple adjuncts and bureaucracy. It totally makes for an inferior “product” as well- any decent adjunct will go someplace that doesn’t treat them so shabbily, and students/parents will look elsewhere for an education that isn’t a subpar staffed-by-committee model.
“Healthcare lobby” is an interesting turn of phrase. Who, exactly, do you mean?
Based on OpenSecrets.org’s list list of highest political contributors, the largest healthcare-related contributors are Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the American Cooperative of Physicians and, of course, they pale beside large contributors like the various public employees’ unions and a handful of rent-seeking companies.
I’m not disputing your claim but I would like to quantify it a bit. I think it’s possible that the “healthcare lobby” isn’t as significant as the benefits lobby. Generally speaking, I find Americans’ kneejerk reactions about healthcare reform pretty puzzling.
I think that whole comment could use a bit of disaggregation. What, exactly, do you want to outlaw? I gather that you’re opposed to “at-will” employment. Abolishing it will require overturning quite a bit of standing law. What’s your alternative?
Note, too, that quite a few of the “sons of bitches” you’re talking about are state employees. I don’t have the figure right at hand but the ratio of public/private higher education is pretty high. How exactly will that work? Aren’t they protected by sovereign immunity?
@OzarkHillbilly: @Rob in CT: @JKB: Given the scale, I can’t imagine that there’s enough money in administrative salary to cover healthcare costs for thousands of adjuncts.
@NickTamere: “It totally makes for an inferior “product” as well- any decent adjunct will go someplace that doesn’t treat them so shabbily, and students/parents will look elsewhere for an education that isn’t a subpar staffed-by-committee model. ”
Yes, but it punishes people who think they should be able to live on what they’re paid for their labor, so that’s okay…
It’s not as if any of these adjuncts had healthcare benefits anyway. And yes, it points up the absurdity of the employer based healthcare system. One thing I’ve never understood is why big business (and big employers) want to be in the business of providing healthcare to their employees. It creates an HR bureaucracy and adds to the cost of doing business. Seems to me they should have spoken up and asked to be relieved of this social job.
@wr: Wow, you can actually see what would almost be considered a “thought process” in wr.
Here we see wr working himself into what he thinks of as a righteous rage. But at this point, he realizes that he’s calling for people to be locked up not for committing a crime, but actually obeying the law. Just obeying the law in a way wr doesn’t like. Also in a way that a lot of us foresaw and said so, but were ignored and insulted and mocked.
Anyway, wr realizes nothing he’s talked about so far actually qualifies as a crime. So, he does what he has to do: he starts making up crimes.
Just where did these actual crimes come from? wr’s fevered brain, and no where else.
The core of the matter here: employers — and not just colleges — are doing exactly what a lot of us said they would: they are obeying ObamaCare’s rules to the letter — but in a way that is in their own best interests. They’re not breaking the law, they’re not doing anything that justifies any kind of prison time.
And one more point from wr’s “mentality” — his rant is based on the belief that employers “own” their jobs. Not the employer, the employee. The Workers Control The Means Of Production.
Probably not. Certainly not given our over-inflated healthcare costs. Which brings us back to a discussion of the healthcare system (which isn’t much of a “system” really) again.
It all keeps coming back to healthcare.
@Just Me: Also businesses are cutting staffs to get under the 50 employee limits. The effects of some of these rules were so obvious when this thing was dreamed up: anyone could see that except our elected “leaders”.
@Jenos Idanian #13: Oh, little Jay Tea, it’s nice to see you frothing so frantically at my little bit of hyperbole. And so completely without coherence:
“And one more point from wr’s “mentality” — his rant is based on the belief that employers “own” their jobs. Not the employer, the employee. The Workers Control The Means Of Production.”
What in creation is this supposed to mean? Is it in Icelandic? Because those inflected languages are really difficult.
And I didn’t make up a crime. I said quite clearly that employers who set out to screw their employees should be sent to jail It’s not like I introduced legislation or claimed there was a penal code violation. It’s sort of like saying “someone as stupid as Jenos shouldn’t be allowed to live on the same planet with actual human beings.” That isn’t a serious call to have you executed or deported to Mars.
I’m glad you believe the employers should do their best to treat their employees as badly as possible, right up to the line of commtting a felony. Some of us believe this is a flawed business model. Of course, some of us actually have jobs, and therefore know what we’re talking about.
@scott: “It’s not as if any of these adjuncts had healthcare benefits anyway. ”
I know lots of adjuncts who have healthcare benefits. What are you basing this on?
@Jenos Idanian #13: “were and insulted and mocked.”
As you will continue to be. As you deserve to be. Either get used to it, or stop trolling.
This is why one should never even think of taking wr seriously. He himself says he shouldn’t be.
And yes, you made up a crime. The issue here is employers seeking to comply with the law (a stupid, poorly-crafted, corrupt, and completely wrong-headed law, but the law nonetheless), not conspiring to break it. You tried to take that and spin that into a rant where you can show how tough you can be on certain types of criminals.
This is ObamaCare. I got a friend who is currently working two jobs, getting about 28 hours a week at each. He’s putting in almost 60 hours, averaging one day off a month, but won’t be offered health insurance from either — because under ObamaCare, he doesn’t qualify. So he will have to end up getting one of those state plans, or risk becoming a criminal. And his state is one of those that’s considering simply refusing to set up its exchange.
This guy’s story is hardly unique. Hell, it’s probably more common than not. And it’s exactly what a lot of us said would be a direct, foreseeable consequence of ObamaCare. Pelosi warned us that we’d have to pass the bill in order to see what’s in it, and gosh isn’t it wonderful.
Congrats, everyone who supported it. Still proud of it?
Hell, I bet a hugely disproportionate percentage of those adjuncts voted for Obama and supported ObamaCare. Why are they complaining? This is what they fought for.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Absolutely, 100% wrong. He is not offered health insurance because his employers choose not to offer it.
That economic analysis is incomplete. The most important error is that costs related to adding an adjunct are compensation alone. It sounds like you’ve just multiplied candidate search, candidate selection, class scheduling, personnel management, instructor rating, and so forth. All of these increase the load on administration, adding to total costs.
It will be discussed at each institution, no doubt, but I don’t think that more instructors will always be the most palatable arrangement in all cases, or the one with lowest cost.
(Leaving aside the economics, I think the meta issue is not that a 30 hour bar was invented, but hat a 40 hour bar was shifted. Yes, across the boards institutions and companies that shied from 40 for regulatory reasons now will have to examine how much staff they can attract or manage for lower hours. I presume that the Obama economists studied this, and found that when you get down to 24 hour workers, it just gets to be a pain in the ass. I mean, what the hell happens to attrition at 24 hours? How many more instructors or workers will just blow off the gig?)
(Maybe our local plutocrats expect the proles to show up for a 20 hour gig, and be happy to have it.)
@Jenos Idanian #13: Uh-huh. And your fictional hard-working friend with all those jobs? Did he have health insurance before?
All this whining about “Obamacare” from the usual suspects seems so disingenuous…I mean, what alternatives were they offering to help more people get health insurance before PPACA was the law? Their sudden concern (after PPACA, that is) for all those who don’t have health insurance is so very touching…
Uh-huh. And your fictional hard-working friend with all those jobs?
Our school district cut hours to the paraprofessional and aid staff so they could stop offering insurance. A few of them had spouse plans they could go on, but several are now uninsured. Also, almost every one I worked with worked a second part time job.
Are you denying that some employers are cutting hours to avoid paying insurance?
@Just Me: Nope, that’s what jail is for.
I am denying that Jenos actually has a friend, let alone one who works two jobs.
And still wondering why you think it is a moral failing for a teachers union not to be representing people it doesn’t represent.
Given that the employer mandate does not take effect until 2014, it’s a virtual certainty that no employers are cutting hours to avoid paying insurance because of Obamacare. They may be cutting hours and dropping benefits for other reasons and blaming it on Obamacare, but no one should believe them.
@David M: You think maybe these employers are cutting hours now so they can work out the bugs ahead of time? So they’re ready if the rules change later and there’s an attempt to block such moves?
Businesses that are planning on complying with the ObamaCare mandate by reducing the number of employees they’d have to cover would be smart to implement such a plan well in advance of the actual deadline. Such as, say, shortly after court rulings and elections that make it pretty damned inevitable that they’re going to happen.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
In a word, no. They are not reducing hours and benefits now because in a year they might go up, and no one should be gullible enough to fall for that transparent excuse.
@Jenos Idanian #13: Come on, we know how the game is played–employers doing whatever they want to cut costs, blame it on “Obamacare” to rouse up the marks.
And you’ve bit, like usual.
@James Joyner: I’ll bet there is enough money in facilities though, that is where the big budget money goes, unfortunately it is also where it comes in, if only rich alumni donors would adopt promising young educators they might really make a difference with their money.
Thank you for paying attention to this issue, and I’d like to point out, right away, that MOST higher ed faculty in the country are now adjunct, or contingent, and that most are part-time, usually not because they want to be, but because of “caps” that are clearly designed to keep them from claiming “full time” benefits. Unfortunately, the real situation of the majority higher ed faculty–let’s call them adcons–is not well known.
For instance, you write that “adjuncts are there to cut costs–which is both unseemly and understandable, given resource constraints in recent years.” In fact, there is nothing “recent” about this: the strong trend to use cheaper part-time adcom replacements for full-time faculty started forty years ago.
So, the popular idea that “There are more qualified candidates to teach courses in many disciplines than there are courses to teach” needs to be taken with several grains of salt: as you yourself point out, there are many adcons working part time at two or three or more schools, because of caps on thier working hours, so “demand” here is clearly distorted. What is clear is that there is systematic exploitation of faculty though out higher education.
So, thanks for the article, and keep it up– there’s more.
I wanted to add something, so that people will understand the damage that has been done to the academic profession–the faculty–over the decades.
Perhaps this will help, about the three places that Dr. Joyner has taught political science:
Troy University, where 80% of faculty were adjunct by 2009, mostly part time, up from 54% in 1995.
Bainbridge College, where 64% of faculty were adjunct by 2009, mostly part time, up from 47% in 1995.
University of Tennessee a Chattanooga, where 53% of faculty were adjunct by 2009, mostly part-time, up from only 15% in 1995.
(Info available here http://www.mla.org/acad_work_search)
So, again, the damage done to faculty as a whole, and, particularly, the exploitation of the now majority adcon faculty, is not due to “recent” economic problems at all, much less to Obamacare.
Peope think that “only” adcon faculty are being hurt, but this is untrue in a variety of ways: http://cringingliberalelite.blogspot.com/2013/01/only-contingent-faculty-to-be-affected.html
This is why Obama supported universal health care. What is now called Obamacare is a compromise required by republicans and conservative democrats that has led to “loop holes” for employers to continue their goal of underpaying employees and providing no benefits so they can make money hand over fist on the backs of those who actually do the work.
Why else would Papa John’s claim they needed to cut hours to avoid giving benefits. This guys backyard is his private 18 hole golf course built on the backs of low paid part-time employees. He already avoided employee benefits for his own profits and he is disengenuos claiming that the PPACA will force him to cut hours to employees. It is only an excuse to continue to surpress employees.