CCs cancel cheap health insurance

Many “students have found themselves in health care limbo this semester,” reports CBS New York. “Community colleges in New Jersey used to offer cheap health insurance for hundreds of dollars a year” but cancelled coverage because the new federal health care law bans barebones policies.

Upgrading the college’s plan to meet Obamacare rules would cost “more than a thousand dollars per student,”  said Stephen Nacco, a vice president at Union County Community College.

Students like Carlos Arias depended on the low-cost health care.

“I’m kind of healthy right now but I am worried that when something happens I’m not going to go to the hospital,” Arias said.

If students can sign up for Obamacare, many should qualify for subsidized policies. So far, few have been able to navigate the web site. Younger students may be insured on their parents’ health plans.

Community colleges in Maryland are cutting adjuncts’ hours to avoid paying for health insurance, reports the Baltimore Sun. Employers must provide insurance to workers who average 30 hours a week or more.

Cash-strapped community colleges in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Howard and Prince George’s counties, among other places, have pre-emptively limited adjuncts’ hours, starting this year. Expanding health coverage to such instructors would cost schools across the state $17 million, officials at the Maryland Association of Community Colleges estimated.

Community colleges in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states also have limited adjuncts’ work hours.

In Maryland, most adjuncts make less than $2,500 per course, which means less than $23,000 a year under the new limits.

Art history instructor Amy Poff can teach no more than three classes per semester at the Community College of Baltimore County this year. Poff, who also teaches at Harford Community College, has added a class at Howard Community College.

CCs link needy students to benefits

After losing her job in 2005, Sarah Young applied for public aid — and enrolled at  Gateway Community and Technical College in Kentucky. Now she’s a success coach for Gateway’s Benefits Access for College Completion program, which helps low-income students find the aid they need to stay in school, reports Inside Higher Ed. “Our motto is short-term assistance for long-term success,” Young said. “I utilized benefits. It was short–term. You can gain self-sufficiency.”

Gateway is piloting the three-year, $4.84 million initiative along with Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio, LaGuardia Community College in New York, Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania, Skyline College in California, and Lake Michigan College and Macomb Community College in Michigan. The Ford, Kresge, Lumina, Open Society and Annie E. Casey Foundations are funding the project.

Advocates hope to lower the drop-out rate.

More than 70 percent of students who drop out of community colleges cite financial burdens and work obligations as their main reasons, said Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy and the director of the Benefits Access for College Completion program. The average community college student had more than $6,000 in unmet financial need during the 2011-2012 school year, Duke-Benfield said.

. . .  The participating community colleges are linking students with groceries, rent assistance and childcare assistance, as well as making them aware of benefits they may not have known they were eligible for, such as Medicaid and food stamps.

At Gateway, faculty now tell their students about available services and the placement exams ask about financial need.

Northampton puts notices on bathroom stalls about food aid.

At Cuyahoga Community College, students can apply for benefits on campus through Project Go!

The next BACC challenge is informing students about their health insurance options: 69 percent of dropouts said health insurance would have helped them “a lot” in getting a degree.

College cuts work hours to duck health costs

To avoid paying for health insurance, a Pittsburgh community college will cut the work hours of 400 adjunct instructors and support staff by Dec. 31, reports Breitbart. Under Obamacare, employers have to provide insurance for employees working 30 or more hours a week. Community College of Allegheny County will cut part-timers to 25 hours a week. Adjuncts will be limited to teaching 10 credit hours a semester, down from 12, for $730 per credit hour. In all, the college will save $6 million.

The college can’t afford to fund benefits, said CCAC spokesperson David Hoovler. “Several years of cuts or largely flat funding from our government supporters have led to significant cost reductions by CCAC, leaving little room to trim the college’s budget further.”

“It’s kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said adjunct biology professor Adam Davis.

“We all know we are expendable and there are plenty of people out there in this economy who would be willing to have our jobs,” said Davis.

CCAC’s faculty union doesn’t include adjuncts, notes Inside Higher Ed.

Adjunct English professor Clint Benjamin, who has been teaching at the college for six years, pays out-of-pocket for catastrophic health care coverage only and had vague hopes of improved insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Not only is he now ineligible for such help, but the course load reduction will translate to up to $600 less in pay each month.

But Benjamin still will be working full-time. Between the college and nearby Duquesne University, he currently teaches seven courses per semester. He estimated he works up to 70 hours per week, but doesn’t qualify for health insurance at either institution.

“There’s frustration and anger and sadness and resentment, you know, but you don’t have a voice,” Benjamin said.