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AAUP Calls on Colleges to Calculate Adjuncts’ Work Hours Fairly

The American Association of University Professors on Tuesday issued a statement calling on colleges to devise “fair methods” for calculating the working hours of adjunct instructors, after the Internal Revenue Service issued proposed rules earlier this year that sought to advise colleges on how to do so for the purpose of providing part-timers with health benefits.

The debate over adjuncts’ hours arose with the passage of the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new law that seeks to expand health-insurance coverage to more Americans. Under the law, which takes effect next year, employers must provide health benefits to employees who work 30 hours a week or more. In response, some colleges have limited adjuncts’ hours in an attempt to keep their workloads below the 30-hour threshold.

The IRS’s proposed rules do not provide a specific formula for calculating adjuncts’ work hours but call on colleges to use a “reasonable” method for counting their hours. Beyond health care, the 30-hour benchmark is also an important qualifying standard for participation in other federal programs.

The AAUP’s statement on Tuesday expressed support for the guidelines under development by the IRS. “Colleges and universities should realize the importance of providing health insurance to employees,” the statement says, adding, “We call on them to comply with the law and devise fair methods of calculating adjunct faculty hours, methods that fully take into account the many activities in which such faculty members engage.”

The group called efforts to limit adjuncts’ hours “reprehensible,” and said it would “remain alert to complaints” about similar moves in the future.

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