North Carolina congressman introduces act to exempt student workers from Affordable Care Act

In the latest issue of The Report, the SPLC explored the uncertainty facing student journalists following the implementation of the the Affordable Care Act. The Act would require any employer with more than 50 full-time workers or equivalents to offer health insurance to employees who average 30 hours per week, or pay a fine, beginning in 2016. News, however, doesn’t always understand time restrictions, and neither do student journalists.

“It’s hard to tell students to stop reporting on what they’re reporting, to stop editing a story if there’s news happening,’ said Rachele Kanigel, president of the College Media Association, in The Report. “Students want to cover it, and they’re not looking at the clock.”

The Student Worker Exemption Act, introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, could help clear some of that uncertainty. As part of an effort to save universities’ money while still letting students work to help pay for rising tuition costs, Meadows is asking Congress to exempt student workers from the Affordable Care Act, The Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher approached Meadows with the idea and University of North Carolina System President Tom Ross supports it, according to the Citizen-Times.

“This provision in the ACA will be extremely costly to colleges and universities, forcing many to cut student workers,” Meadows said in a written statement. “At a time when tuition costs are constantly rising and student loan debt has hit a record high at $1.08 trillion, on-campus employment opportunities are relied on by students across the country to help pay the cost of their tuition.”

WCU has 1,500 student workers, including 75 who meet the 30 hours-a-week average, which would cost the university more than $300,000 a year to insure, the Citizen-Times reported. The university already requires the students to have health insurance.

Many universities are considering or have already started limiting student hours or cutting student jobs. University of Kansas cut hours to 20 a week this summer, according to The University Daily Kansan. Clemson University began limiting students to 28 hours of work per week last fall, according to Report.