Kansas students nervous over possible hour cuts

3/17/2014

LAWRENCE (AP) — University of Kansas graduate students are nervous about a proposal that could cut back how many hours they can work on campus under the federal health care law.

LAWRENCE (AP) — University of Kansas graduate students are nervous about a proposal that could cut back how many hours they can work on campus under the federal health care law.

The potential cutbacks were brought up in university's administration discussions about how to adapt to the Affordable Care Act, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Especially worrisome to students is an email that appears to outline a proposal to limit students to 20 hours of on-campus work per week, down from 30 hours.

The newspaper told The Associated Press the email was written by an unnamed administrator and forwarded to the newspaper by someone else, and a school spokesman didn't dispute its contents but said it fell short of an actual proposal.

The potential cutback would represent a sizable loss of income for many graduate teaching and research assistants. Some have drawn up petitions and started a campus-wide campaign against cutting hours.

A university spokesman said the school has yet to determine how the 30-hour-a-week definition of full-time employment in the health care law would apply to graduate students, and what the cost of insuring them would be.

"I think the whole conversation is very premature," spokesman Gavin Young said.

According to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, the federal government has not specifically addressed how graduate teaching and research assistants fit into the law.

The university employed about 1,100 teaching assistants and 640 research assistants in 2013, the school's public affairs office said. Under the terms of their appointments, most assistants work 20-hour weeks, with an average pay of between $15,000 and $16,000 for a nine-month appointment. That's not enough income for many students.

"A number of us have second jobs on campus that go beyond" the assistantship, said Meredith Wiggins, a graduate student in English who works as a teaching assistant and puts in extra hours at the journalism school's Bremner Editing Center. "A lot of us rely on that money to make ends meet."

Jennifer Colatosti, an English doctoral student, agreed. Colatosti is a teaching assistant who also works as a consultant at the University of Kansas Writing Center. A 20-hour limit would force her to quit her Writing Center job, "effectively cutting out $400 of my monthly budget," she said. "And that's significant."

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