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Merry Christmas: Health care law to potentially eliminate full-time student jobs

Published: Monday, December 16, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 19, 2013 16:12

Kristen Robards, like other students employees, may not be able to work full-time on campus.

Photo by Nick Burns

Kristen Robards, like other students employees, may not be able to work full-time on campus.

     Several parts of the Affordable Care Act go into effect in early 2014. The employer mandate, which was delayed until January 2015, may redefine the traditional workweek, changing how businesses and institutions nationwide calculate pay.

     The CU system, and UCCS by extension, is still unsure how the new law will effect student employment.

     “It will have a change definitely on how we calculate time worked,” said Lisa Landis, assistant vice president, Employee Services for the CU system. “We are getting very little guidance from federal regulations.”

     According to an ACA provision, “a full-time employee with respect to any month is an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.”

     “We’re trying to get clarity around how the 75 percent fulltime equivalency will apply to student employees, said Susan Szpyrka, vice chancellor for Administration and Finance.

     “It isn’t saying that someone can’t work 35 hours in one week or 39 hours in one week. It’s saying that we’re still trying to figure it out,” said Szpyrka. “I’ve been asking for advice on this now since probably July.”

     Much of the question hinges on if the 30-hour limit will be enforced as a weekly maximum or as a 1,560-hour yearly total.

     “I cannot tell you we are or are not going to restrict people to 30 hours a week because we have made no decision on that,” Szpyrka said.

     Initially, CU Employee Services conducted a “look-back period” from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2013, to see how a 1,560 cap on hours a year would affect student employees.

     Results indicated that no undergraduate students at UCCS were found to have worked in excess of 1,560 hours over the 12-month period. A second review period,

however, conducted from May 2012 to April 2013, indicated 42 UCCS undergraduates worked more than 1,560 hours during that period.

     Szpyrka indicated if students wanted to continue working 40 hours a week, they would possibly have to do so partially on campus but in conjunction with another off-campus employer.

     “I do know that there are students who have that demand and that need. And they’ll still probably be able to do that, but they may find that they’re working

a job on campus and a job off campus.”

     Many departments on campus are also unsure how to plan for the university’s pending decision. “It’s going to require us to be a little more aware off where else our employees are working on campus,” said Matt Gaden, director of campus recreation.

     Faced with the possibility of limited weekly hours, some student employees are concerned about future finances. Kristen Robards, a junior math major who works at the Copy Center, expressed worries about making ends meet.

     “The limitation is very unfair,especially for students who are financially independent like myself,” said Robards. “For them to limit that I don’t think is morally right.”

     According to Szpyrka, based on information from CU Employee Services, the university would not have to implement any changes until UCCS’ open enrollment period starting in May but with an effective start date of June 1.

     “I can’t tell you when the changes will be,” said Szyprka. “I will tell you that we will have the information out as quickly as we can.”

     “Anything that may impact a student, we want them to know about it before the end of the May term,” she added.

     Szpyrka also stated the university would have a high level of control throughout the process.

     “UCCS will be able to manage most of the implementation of the policy and even determine what our processes will be.”

     Regarding health benefits for those working on campus, Szpyrka stated, “Student employees have never had benefi ts. It’s kind of been a great thing for students to find employment.”

“It helps the university in hiring students, and most students don’t need health insurance.” She went on to explain most, not all, undergrad students are covered under their parents’ plan until they are 26.

     In a follow-up, Szpyrka stated, “It is never good when a student does not have health insurance.” She reiterated many students can remain on their parents plan until age 26.

     For students who do not have health insurance, UCCS offers a student health insurance plan that any student can opt into, whether they are a student employee

or not.

     Szpyrka also indicated all students at UCCS have access to the Student Health Center for “non-emergency care.” She went on to explain that “were benefit packages funded for student employees, the number of student employment hours available would have to be reduced in order to fund the benefits.”

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