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University limits student working hours under Obamacare

With Obamacare, some colleges and universities now have to limit the hours students can work on campus, making sure they do not qualify for school-provided health insurance.

Last month, the University of Kansas said it would limit student workers to 20 hours per week for the school year and 40 hours in the summer. With these limitations, students will fall under the 1,560-hour per year threshold that would otherwise make them full-time workers who qualify for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Point Loma Nazarene University has ensured that no students will qualify for Obamacare with their hourly limit. Among all positions – paid by hourly wage, stipends and scholarship – I’m easily exceeding the 1,560-hour yearly threshold, but I do not qualify for health insurance because only my hourly-wage work is counted under PLNU’s rules.

Debra Lively, employment and internship coordinator for PLNU’s Offices of Strengths and Vocation, said the school’s limit on official student working hours isn’t intended to avoid the Obamacare threshold.

“Our primary concern is for the students – they are a student first and we offer them the opportunity to work as a way to contribute to the university and earn money,” Lively said. “This has been part of the university’s system for over 10-plus years.”

The Iowa State Daily is making its staff who work more than 29 hours a week sign a waiver saying they get insurance through their parents or otherwise don’t need it, General Manager Laura Widmer told the Student Press Law Center.

Republican congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina proposes exempting student workers from Obamacare.

Meadows said the University of North Carolina system alone has “3,900 students workers who would fall under the Employer Mandate, costing the universities about $21 million,” in an op-ed for the Asheville Citizen-Times

Meadows’ Student Worker Exemption Act (HR-5262) has been endorsed by Tom Ross, president of the UNC system, and David Belcher, chancellor of Western Carolina University. With these endorsements the act may allow student workers to exceed 30hrs per week in the long term future.

But in a 2012 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 20 percent of the nation’s 19.7 million undergraduates are employed full-time by independent organizations for the entire year. That heavy workload leads some scholars to argue that the Obamacare threshold is beside the point.

Laura Perna, a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and editor of the book “Understanding the Working College Student”, told the Chronicle that students who work 10 to 15 hours a week on campus do better academically and graduate at higher rates than their peers. PLNU continues to keep their cap at 20 hours per week for students.