SPC capping professors' hours to avoid giving healthcare
Adjunct professors at St. Petersburg College aren't very happy these days. Late last month, they all got an email from the senior VP for academic affairs saying that the course loads could be capped at six credit hours next fall. For some of those professors, that essentially meaning halving their work (and their paychecks).
In a phone interview with the Gradebook, President William Law said SPC was waiting to hear from the IRS before making things final. Here's the thinking: When the Affordable Care Act goes live, the college will have to offer healthcare to any employee who works 30 hours or more a week.
A typical SPC course might be three credit hours, meaning an adjunct could take on nine classes and still fall below 30 hours, right? Not quite. For every hour a professor is teaching, it's assumed that they're doing several more hours outside of class. The rule of thumb at SPC is that a professor works two hours for every hour he or she is in front of students. So then a class that's three hours each week is actually nine hours of work, and a professor would be capped at three classes (or 27 hours) to fall below the 27 hour mark.
But the IRS might issue guidelines saying an adjunct professor works three hours for every hour they're in class. Using the same math, a professor could then only take on two classes, for 24 hours of work. But these professors are still paid by the credit hour, meaning they'll make much less regardless of the hourly calculation.
It would cost about $8,000 per employee to provide health benefits, something officials say isn't feasible with their budget.
Adjunct professors teach about 60 percent of the classes at SPC. But Law said students won't be affected, because he'll just hire more adjuncts. With a larger faculty, each member can teach fewer hours and stay under the 30-mark.
"It's just a really ugly choice," Law said. "It's one of the worst choices I've had to face in my time as president."
The cuts will also affect other SPC staffers, such as those in the library tutoring centers.
If the IRS comes back and uses a gentler calculation, professors might be able to take on more than the six credit hours.