Though the full impact of new federal health care guidelines remains unclear, College of DuPage officials say they're now planning to provide benefits to some part-time professors.
The college will create the position of "lecturer" for some nontenured adjunct faculty members who will teach more classes than the average adjunct professor, but still fewer than a full-time professor. The new designation will allow lecturers to be eligible for health care insurance, officials said.
The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 states that employers with 50 of more "full-time equivalent workers" must offer benefits to employees who work more than 30 hours a week beginning in 2014. Employers who don't comply with the new rules face possible fines.
Colleges have been grappling with how to classify adjuncts and whether the institutions would be required to provide them coverage under the new law.
"This has been a complicated and difficult issue," COD President Robert Breuder said in a statement. "We have worked to find a solution that reflects the appropriate balance between individual employee needs and our financial responsibility to the college. Every college will deal with this issue differently, but our goal has been to treat all of our employees as humanely as possible while ensuring the college's financial well-being."
Mike Dusik, president emeritus of the 650-member College of DuPage Adjuncts Association, said adjuncts at COD are getting "a better deal" than their colleagues at other community colleges, where hours are being cut to avoid having to cover their health insurance. Dusik spoke at a meeting in March of the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents at the Westin Lombard Hotel where he asked the presidents to consider providing benefits to adjuncts.
"There's been no determinations made by the (Internal Revenue Service) in regard to any of this," Dusik said. "Essentially here our president and board have taken the initiative to expose themselves somewhat. We appreciate the gesture."
COD is planning to create as many as 45 such lecturer positions, which is equivalent to 15 percent of the college's budgeted full-time faculty positions. Lecturers would be assigned a class load of between 75 percent and 80 percent of a full-time professor's class load, which is about 33 contact hours per year.
Other adjuncts -- those not eligible for insurance coverage -- are limited to no more than 27 contact hours per year, although that number could increase to 29 or 30 depending on the needs of the department, college officials said.
COD spokesman Joe Moore said the number of lecturer positions available each year will be based on the needs of the institution, and the number could change.
He also said there's no guarantee someone appointed as a lecturer will have the same designation the following year.
The college's vice president of academic affairs and executive vice president will determine how many lecturer positions are needed each year, while hiring decisions will be made by the deans of each department.
The college is determining a process by which adjuncts can apply for the new classification, which is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Meanwhile, COD administrators have sought to extend the current collective bargaining agreement with CODAA for 2016 and 2017 that proposes a 3 percent pool of raises for each year. The union membership has been casting ballots this week on the contract extension, and if ratified, is expected to be considered by the college's board of trustees next Thursday.
"In conjunction with the health care act this offer was made to us in a package and it seemed like an excellent opportunity from our point of view," Dusik said.