By Hannah Lundquist —

As we go into the new semester starting January 2016, University of Wisconsin­–Stout, along with the entire UW System, will be facing some radical changes.  The Stout Student Association held an open forum to discuss the new policy change that will be affecting the UW System in regards to student employment hours. Starting January, all Stout students currently employed by the school will be limited to work 25 hours or less per week.

According to federal law, the Affordable Care Act, full-time employees need to be offered health care from their employer. To be considered a full-time employee, a person needs to work 30 hours or more per week. State law, however, does not allow the UW System to offer health insurance to students employed in the system.

“The university is managing the issue by capping the number of hours that can be worked,” said Vice Chancellor Lyons.

Therefore, the UW System is now facing the issue of not being able to offer healthcare to students who work full-time, adhering to state law but currently not abiding by federal laws. If the UW System does not comply to federal law by 95 percent come January, it will be fined.

“In between this issue is a penalty of $2,100 that will be paid to the Federal Government if we do not comply with their rules,” said Lyons. “Those penalties would be paid with university resources that would be paid by the students that are attending.”  

Stout is trying to combat this issue by limiting the number of hours student employees can work per week with on-campus jobs. At this time, there is only a draft policy in place and it excludes those students who receive work-study. It also excludes the resident advisors, counselors and desk services managers.

Right now, there is a house resolution sitting in the House of Representatives called HR210 that would exempt student employees from the Affordable Care Act. This would be a huge feat for the UW System. If this resolution were to pass, UW System administration would not have to limit students’ hours, which would be ideal to some students who find this proposal hindering.

“My belief is that this is not a good thing for the institution or students. The cap of 25 hours limits the ability of a student to earn money to go to school,” said Lyons.

At the SSA open forum, there were many questions about this policy and how this was all going to transpire within the next month. Students were particularly interested in how this hour limit would affect Stout students with multiple on-campus jobs. Unfortunately, the limit would apply to all jobs cumulatively. Therefore, if a student worked three on-campus jobs, they, as an employee, would need to keep track of hours worked across all three jobs so that they did not exceed the 25-hour limit, total.  

Many people were also questioning the policy for jobs such as an SSA representative, who is salaried and does not clock in any hours. Right now the only solution to this problem is to have these workers keep a sort of tally as to what they think their hours might be and clock them accordingly. Regarding this same issue, a few of the resident advisors showed up to the forum and were concerned about how long their exemption would last and if they would then have to keep track of their hours.

This task seems daunting, as the resident advisors are almost always doing something for one of their residents in addition to the mandated hours that they work being on scheduled duty and working at the residence hall desk.

Right now the draft for Stout is that students can work 25 hours per week during the academic year. When school is not in session, however, such as the summer and winter break, student employees may exceed the mark. These changes will be going into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

“The Affordable Care Act is well intended,” said Lyons after the SSA open forum. “But, at the end of the day the ACA limits a student’s ability to work, it raises the university’s administrative costs/expense and if it is not followed, will result in heavy penalties that will be paid with student tuition revenue.”

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