KU looking at compromise on student work hours plan

Kansas University officials are hashing out a new plan for student workers that could allow many to keep their second jobs on campus while holding their work hours below the threshold for employer health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The new proposal would limit the total hours of most KU students work to 29 per week during the spring and fall semesters. That’s down from the current cutoff of 30 hours but higher than an earlier proposal to limit hours to 20.

The current proposal still has to be approved by KU administration. Ola Foucher, director of KU Human Resources, said the goal was to have a new rule finalized and in place by the beginning of the fall semester.

Looking for compromise

When graduate students first became aware of the 20-hour proposal, they signed petitions by the hundreds in protest.

Many grad students work in teaching or research assistantships while holding second jobs on campus that bring in extra income and often make use of skills they’ve picked up through their graduate training.

Graduate students in assistantships are already offered health insurance with a 75 percent contribution from the university that meets the individual mandate under the healthcare reform bill. But for those working 30 hours a week or more, KU would have to provide employer coverage.

Faucher said that a proposal to the state to make the current graduate student insurance a qualifying employer plan was turned down.

Instead, KU would have to offer the state’s own employee health plan to student workers putting in 30 hours a week or more, at an extra cost of roughly $5,000 for each student, Faucher said.

The 29-hour proposal is meant to accommodate graduate students and others who rely on their campus incomes while holding down KU’s healthcare costs.

Navigating new rules

Earlier in May the university held open forums across campus to hear the input of graduate students and other stakeholders. By then the 29-hour proposal was on the table. Graduate students at the forums raised questions about summer hours for those who hold assistantships and other campus jobs and about how to calculate the work hours of assistantships.

Based on those questions, Faucher said her department tweaked the proposal to leave it to KU departments to decide how many hours students can work during the summer, based on their total hours worked in other semesters. Graduate assistants of all types will also start keeping records of their weekly hours.

Even without paying for added health insurance for graduate students, KU will incur some costs to comply with the healthcare bill.

Human Resources is shopping for a new software package to keep records of work hours specifically for compliance reporting. Foucher said her office has also hired a new employee to help with the added workload created by the new rules.

“The overall goal, to get more health insurance to more people, is admirable,” Foucher said. “The law that implemented that process is a complicated law.”