Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Saturday, March 23, 2013

All not quiet on the Western Front

Just in case it comes up later, regarding Obamacare, aka ACA, it's not like we're not suffering for our support. See, a part of the new law requires places of employment to figure part time and full time by the hours actually spent working.

As you may or may not know my wife is an adjunct (read: part-time) college professor. Currently she's working for two college systems. This week both of them notified all their adjunct professors that the change in the law requires a change in how many courses they're allowed to teach before they have to offer healthcare insurance. And it's come as a shock to the college administration that their part-time faculty are actually being worked full-time hours. Shocked, shocked they are. Not really, but now they have to acknowledge the fact.

See, before this most adjunct faculty were paid only for their time in class, as determined by the contact/credit hour. As anyone who has ever taught knows, time in class isn't the full story. Considering the college expects that students will spend 2-3 hours outside of class reading/studying/crying into their beers for every hour spent in class, not exactly a surprise. And in case you didn't know, most colleges rely on adjunct and graduate student faculty for the bulk of their classes.

But now they can't work them into the ground like they did before. At one college my wife works for there are approximately 115 full-time faculty and about 850 adjuncts. Also, in case you didn't know, while full-time faculty are paid decently, adjunct faculty are paid significantly less.

So, given the choice between increasing their full-time faculty (and decreasing their reliance on adjunct), they've opted to cut the hours adjunct faculty can work in a semester. What this means is if they continue to offer the same course loads, the balance between full-time and adjunct will be thrown even more out of whack. This might break their business model as while there are plenty of people with Masters and PhDs, they'll have to recruit them, support them, manage them, etc. The result is that their costs will increase anyway.

While unfortunately my wife's income is less than mine (wasn't our plan, BTW), it still is a significant contribution. However, much of that income is consumed by the costs of commutes between two campuses (and some semesters three campuses). The bad part is those commute costs are now for even less pay. And my wife isn't an outlier when it comes to adjunct faculty. Which means it's even less attractive to be an adjunct (so there goes that pool of available higher degrees).

How will this be rectified? I see one of three paths. Colleges will need to increase their full-time staff and work them harder or they'll have to pay more per contact/credit hours, or accept less cash flow from reduced course offerings. The last one I don't believe will happen (given the various other business models colleges have adopted lately which require a high cash flow). The other two would require either a large increase in tuition or lower executive/management pay. Guess which one I think will happen. That will cause a chain reaction that will lead to legislation (it's not like the cost of higher education isn't already insanely high and increasing at similar rates to healthcare costs - just google the burden of student loans in case you don't believe me).

So in case anybody wants to say it's easy for me to be a supporter of Obamacare, it's not. It's directly affecting our bottom line in a negative fashion. But I still support it. As with most major societal/economic changes there is short term pain for long term gain.

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