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UCCS cuts student employee hours due to Affordable Care Act

By Nick Beadleston
On May 12, 2014

Those expecting to work full time on campus while attending UCCS will have to look elsewhere.

A new student employment policy, set to take effect July 1, will limit student employees to a maximum of 25 hours per week during the spring and fall semesters and 40 hours per week during the summer.

“I’m going to have to take (fewer) classes, less work (and) find another job. It’s making everything worse,” said Marta Blanco-Castano, a student who consistently works more than 30 hours per week in IT.

“A lot of us don’t have rich parents,” Blanco-Castano said. “We’re not just doing this as a hobby. We literally need the money to survive.”

Last December, The Scribe reported UCCS administrators were considering limiting student employment hours due to changes resulting from the Affordable Care Act.

While the law’s employer mandate, which redefines full-time status for employees and forces employers to provide health insurance to those workers, was delayed until 2015, UCCS has already adapted its policy.

“UCCS understands student employees are students first and employees second,” according to the new policy. “As such, attention to academic success, retention and persistence to graduation are the primary reasons the University provides student employment.”

“We understand that there is kind of an at-odds dynamic there,” said Shannon Cable, assistant director of Student Employment.

“But what we are saying is that we would hope that the student would be able to focus as a student first, and utilize the support we can give them through on-campus employment.”

“None of our campus budgets are designed to withstand the impact of what potential (health insurance) benefits would cost,” Cable said.

She indicated student employees have not received health insurance in the past.

The policy also mandates undergraduate students enroll in a minimum of six credit hours to be employed, three credit hours for graduate students.

Based on data from 2012-13, university officials said the new policy will affect about 50 students, including 42 undergraduates.

“My first reaction was, ‘Stop building buildings; take care of your students,’” said Kelsey LeFurge, a full-time Media Services employee.

“What am I going to do with 25 hours a week? Right now I’m struggling with 33, 34 hours a week,” said Blanco-Castano, a geography and environmental studies major with a triple minor.

Blanco-Castano indicated she left her previous off-campus job because it was too stressful trying to work full time and then commute to campus to be a full-time student. She accepted her current position in IT because the department’s flexibility allowed her to work full time and also attend class.

She said she will likely receive a promotion soon if she stays, but is unsure how to make ends meet if her hours are reduced.

“If they’re doing this so we can take more classes … I don’t have the money to pay for extra classes. That’s counterproductive.”

LeFurge, a communication major, works just short of 40 hours each week. She works in multiple areas in the department, doing editing work and assisting in other projects.

She heard about the policy from another student in a different department.

The university received “guidance” from the Internal Revenue Service via College and Universal Professional Association for Human Resources, an independent organization, in February, said Susan Szpyrka, vice chancellor, Administration and Finance.

Szpyrka said CU-Boulder and CU-Denver do not currently have similar policies in place, but are currently designing ones based off UCCS’ model.

“We had to do this really very quickly, because we did not get some of the guidance until February,” said Szpyrka.

She also said UCCS is continuing to receive updated IRS information from third parties.

Both Szpyrka and Cable said they have not received feedback from any of the students expected to be affected by the change.

“The policy reinforces that the primary mission of students is to attend class and make progress toward earning a degree,” Szpyrka said April 29 in Communiqué.

“Every student is different, and how they approach education is different,” Szpyrka told The Scribe. “That is where offering an opportunity to look at a position off campus as well as one on campus is not necessarily contrary to what we see as important for those students.”

LeFurge indicated she would not be seeking another job if not for this decision, noting her current on-campus job works well with her schedule.

“They really accommodate that. Elsewhere…I don’t know.”

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