Casey to Treasury: Consider Adjunct Faculty When Calculating Employer Responsibility Requirements for Community Colleges

Washington DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Department of the Treasury to consider the needs of the higher education community regarding methods for calculating adjunct faculty hours of service under the employer responsibility requirements of the Affordable Care Act. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Casey urged that the law be implemented in a way that is appropriate and fair for community colleges, as well as mindful of the unique mission they fulfill and challenges that they face in the current fiscal climate.

“Community colleges play a critical role in providing affordable access to higher education for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Casey.   “With an increase in student enrollment, combined with recent, often drastic decreases in funding, community colleges are increasingly reliant on adjunct faculty to fill the needs of their students. Failure to develop a workable method to calculate faculty hours will have a devastating impact on the ability of community colleges to serve their students.”

In March, the American Association of Community Colleges submitted comments to the IRS urging an alternate method for applying the employer responsibility requirements to community colleges. Under this proposal, adjunct faculty would be classified as full-time employees if their course load meets or exceeds 75 percent of the course load for a full-time non-tenured track teaching faculty member in the same department or institution.

This method will appropriately determine which faculty members are full-time or part-time by comparing faculty with similar responsibilities. Total hours worked by an adjunct faculty member would be calculated by crediting them with one hour of work outside of the classroom for every hour of teaching.  This proposal also has the support of Pennsylvania’s community colleges.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be found below:

The Honorable Jack Lew
Secretary
U.S. Department of the Treasury

Dear Secretary Lew:

I write today to request that, when drafting the final rule announced in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “Shared Responsibility for Employers Regarding Health Coverage” (RIN 1545–BL33), you carefully consider the comments that have been submitted by the higher education community regarding methods for calculating adjunct faculty hours of service under the employer responsibility requirements of the Affordable Care Act. 

I have been contacted by the presidents of Pennsylvania’s community colleges, who have expressed their concern over the proposed methods of calculating adjunct faculty hours for the purpose of determining eligibility for health insurance coverage, given that faculty status as full-time or part-time is usually calculated based on the number of credits taught and not on the number of hours worked. Community colleges play a critical role in providing affordable access to higher education for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.  At the height of the recent recession, community colleges in Pennsylvania experienced an increase of more than 36,000 students in a single year. When combined with recent, often drastic decreases in funding, this increase in demand means that community colleges are increasingly reliant on adjunct faculty to fill the needs of their students.

Failure to develop a workable method to calculate faculty hours will have a devastating impact on the ability of community colleges to serve their students. Community colleges are already planning for the 2013-2014 academic year, and need reliable guidance to be able to make informed decisions about what courses to offer and how many adjuncts to hire in order to meet demand. Without a clear understanding of their obligations as employers under the Affordable Care Act, they cannot be sure that they are going to be able to hire the faculty they need to serve their students.

On March 18, 2013, the American Association of Community Colleges submitted comments to the IRS urging an alternate method for applying the employer responsibility requirements to community colleges. Under this proposal, adjunct faculty would be classified as full-time employees if their course load meets or exceeds 75 percent of the course load for a full-time non-tenured track teaching faculty member in the same department or institution. This method will appropriately determine which faculty members are full-time or part-time by comparing faculty with similar responsibilities; it is inappropriate to compare adjuncts and tenured or tenure-track faculty, as their obligations, especially regarding their non-teaching responsibilities, can be substantially different. Total hours worked by an adjunct faculty member would be calculated by crediting them with one hour of work outside of the classroom for every hour of teaching.  This proposal also has the support of Pennsylvania’s community colleges.

I ask that you carefully consider this proposal. As noted, community colleges play an important role, both in Pennsylvania and across our Nation. I am fully committed to the Affordable Care Act’s goal of ensuring access to quality, affordable health insurance for all Americans. However, we must ensure that the new law is implemented in a way that is appropriate and fair for community colleges, as well as mindful of the unique mission they fulfill and challenges that they face in the current fiscal climate.

If I or my staff can be of further assistance, please contact my Washington, DC office.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

 

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