College. It’s a place chock-full of administrators and debt. A place where a small percentage have tenure, and a vast untenured majority does most of the actual teaching. The adjunct professors are the McDonald’s counter staff of higher education. And they’re about to lose big, thanks to ObamaCare.
In Ohio, instructor Robert Balla faces a new cap on the number of hours he can teach at Stark State College. In a Dec. 6 letter, the North Canton school told him that “in order to avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act… employees with part-time or adjunct status will not be assigned more than an average of 29 hours per week.”
Mr. Balla, a 41-year-old father of two, had taught seven English composition classes last semester, split between Stark State and two other area schools. This semester, his course load at Stark State is down to one instead of two as a result of the school’s new limit on hours, cutting his salary by about a total of $2,000.
Stark State’s move came as a blow to Mr. Balla, who said he earns about $40,000 a year and cannot afford health insurance.
“I think it goes against the spirit of the [health-care] law,” Mr. Balla said. “In education, we’re working for the public good, we are public employees at a public institution; we should be the first ones to uphold the law, to set the example.”
Irene Motts, a spokeswoman for Stark State, a two-year community college, said the new rules were necessary “to maintain the fiscal stability of the college. There are a lot of penalties involved if adjuncts go over their 29 hours-per-week average. The college can be fined and the fines are substantial.”
That’s the problem with illegal and unconstitutional laws. They don’t just hurt the people they’re supposed to hurt. They end up hurting everyone. And they have unintended consequences.
People are not machines. They don’t just accept laws, instead they find ways to meet their own interests by navigating around them.
Total debt for American colleges is an estimated 205 billion dollars. That’s institutional debt, not student debt. That means that the institutions cannot afford more expenses and they’re going to cut where they’ve been cutting before.
For decades, colleges and universities have cut costs by hiring adjuncts instead of tenured or tenure-track faculty. In 1975, adjuncts made up 43% of the faculty at U.S. colleges. By 2009, that number had climbed to nearly 70%, according to John Curtis, director of Research and Public Policy at the American Association of University Professors, a professional group with an affiliated labor union.
Many of the adjuncts have other careers in their subject areas, and teach only a single class each semester. But a sizable number make their living from teaching, and have to pay for their own health insurance. Most adjuncts who don’t receive coverage through their employer will be eligible for subsidized insurance starting in 2014 through new exchanges set up by the federal health-care law.
In the short term, Mr. King said he expects many colleges will hire more adjuncts and have each teach fewer classes. But that could make it harder for schools to find enough qualified adjuncts, he said.
But they won’t have to. Qualifications really don’t matter. American higher education is in a state of decline. Few prospective students pay attention to adjunct qualifications, but to the big names of the star professors, the new facilities and they diversity and media gimmicks. Treating most of the teaching staff like day laborers while hiring more administrators is viable so long as the government funds enough scholarships for students to get dead end degrees with no other career options… besides teaching.
It’s called serfdom and the corporate store. Now with a mortarboard and degree. And a stamp of approval from every liberal figure in America.