Obamacare limits student employee hours

State University of New York recently updated and revised its student employment policy, which by result of the Affordable Care Act, will limit students employed by their college to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the academic year and 29 hours per week during the summer.

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, has been altering the previous maximum hours-per-week limit of 40 hours at colleges and universities across the country during the last year to avoid institutions from being forced to offer students benefits.

As of Sept. 1, employment policies at colleges in the SUNY system have also adhered to the federal mandate and the new hour limit policy will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Oswego State sent out a campus-wide email announcement Sept. 22 informing students and faculty of this change.

“Campuses may limit student assistant hours of employment to 20 hours per week while classes are in session based on campus policy,” the SUNY policy states. “Students who are in good academic standing may be allowed to work more than 20 hours (but not more than 29 hours) a week based on campus policy. Students who are struggling academically should continue to be limited to 20 hours per week. International students are limited per United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS] regulations to working no more than 20 hours per week while classes are in session.”

Student employees may work more than one job on the student assistant payroll; however the maximum number of hours cannot be exceeded for combined hours in the multiple jobs. Students employed by federal work study are exempt from the Affordable Care Act or SUNY student employee provisions. Oswego State hires hundreds of student employees each year to work on campus.

“Student assistant positions are established for the purpose of providing financial support to students while accomplishing necessary work for the campus,” SUNY Director of Public Relations Casey Vattimo told the Stony Brook Independent. “Student assistants are temporary, part-time positions and do not include benefits.”

Nicholas Lyons, the Oswego State vice president for administration and finance, said the 20-hour limit for student employees during the school year is already an enforced rule at Oswego State.

“That part of the legislation doesn’t bother us,” Lyons said. “It’s a local rule here that we try to keep them limited to how much they work during the academic year so work doesn’t become detrimental to their education while they are here. The 29-hour limit during the summer is what we don’t like.”

Oswego State employs students for various positions during the summer months. They are not required to be enrolled in summer classes.

“We try to hire as many students as we can,” Lyons said. “We realize a lot of students rely on 40 hours a week to continue going to school.”

There is concern that the new hour limitation would incite students to look for summer work elsewhere.

Senior Marc Gummerson worked through Oswego State this summer as a member of the grounds crew.

“Personally, I would not be willing to work so few hours,” Gummerson said. “I had no summer classes so I was perfectly content working 40 hours a week. I had large paychecks as a result. If you cut the hours, it really isn’t worth the time.”

Sophomore Mariah Santana, who worked this past summer as building manager for Campus Life, said the paychecks she got from working went further than just paying for schooling.

“[Working was] very important,” Santana said. “It helped me to be able to pay my bills, some of my family’s bills, as well as textbooks and the school bill at the beginning of the school year.”

When asked if she would work at the school with a 29-hour limitation during the summer, she replied, “If I can’t find another job, yes, but other than that, no.”

Santana agrees that the 20-hour limit during the school year, already enforced by Oswego State, is reasonable.

“I feel if I do more than that, I may overextend myself with the job, plus school work,” Santana said.

Lyons said the college administration as a whole is not in favor of the 29-hour mandate and said Oswego State will join other colleges and universities across the country that are pushing for legislation that exempts students from this provision of Obamacare.

“We feel that the 29-hour limit is more geared for insurance purposes and we feel that students should not feel included in that,” Lyons said. “That isn’t the issue with student employment. The administration here is going to try to work with people who are trying to get this legislation changed. We are not in favor of it; we believe it is detrimental to our student employments.”

Propositions for legislation on the act’s provision have already been established in two bills introduced by the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the Association of Corporate Counsel, The Student Worker Exemption Act of 2014 (H.R. 5262) and the Student Job Protection Act of 2014 (H.R. 5298) were introduced in the House on July 30. Inside Higher Ed and several other higher education groups have endorsed the Student Worker Exemption Act, according to the American Council on Education.

The Student Worker Exemption Act has been co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R–Illinois) who has been spearheading such proposed legislation for some time.

“Heading into this school year, my office heard instances of universities informing student workers that their hours would be strictly limited due to the employer mandate of Obamacare,” Davis said in a statement on Sept. 29. “Many students depend on these jobs as a form of financial aid to pay for living expenses, tuition and books. This simple, bipartisan change to Obamacare would protect student workers from having their hours cut and universities from facing additional costs at a time when the focus should be on helping them ensure college remains affordable for students.”

Propositions to change the student employee provision of the Affordable Care Act will most likely press forward in the House of Representatives.

“I think it is ridiculous to limit the hours for student workers,” Gummerson said. “We are paying large sums of money to get an education, but we are now limited even further in how we can pay for it.”