LAWRENCE, Kan. - In an effort to comply with provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require employers to provide health insurance to many part time employees, the University of Kansas now plans to cap the number of hours students employed by the school can work setting off concerns among some about paying for their education.
"I need any extra income I can get, and that means every hour of the day that I'm not in class I’m working and I value that a lot," senior Rachel Prather said in an interview Wednesday after leaving her on-campus job at the tutoring center.
Under KU's new plan, undergraduate students would be limited to working 20 hours per week during the semester. Graduate students may work up to 29 hours per week, with some exceptions.
Last semester, KU had 4850 student employees. A university spokesman said it was unclear how many of those will be affected by the change.
"Of the thousands of student employees that we have, there are very few who are actually working over the 20 hour limit, comparatively," KU spokesman Gavin Young told 41 Action News.
The plan was announced via email on Tuesday, and after the school's Daily Kansan newspaper reported on it , news is already spreading, and some students are concerned.
"I don't think that I've had a semester at KU when I've worked less than 25 [hours]," Prather said. "I can't really imagine how I’m going to buy groceries on twenty hours or less a week."
Off-campus options for employment are less appealing for academic reasons, explained another student.
"If I have a test to study for I can let them know, and they can give me any time off that I need, but I know that would not be the case if I was working a service job," senior Kristina Nielander said.
The university held three public meetings on the issue during the spring semester, so the decision was not a total surprise. It plans several more such meetings this fall to answer questions and head off any backlash.
"As the news starts to trickle out I expect we will see a lot of emails coming in to human resources," Young, the spokesman, said.
All this comes as President Barack Obama traveled to Kansas City, some 40 miles east, to tout his economic achievements, including the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Here, students interviewed choose not to blame the university or the president outright, chalking up the hour crunch instead to the law of unintended consequences.
"I feel like the university didn't want to do this. It's just something that kind of came and you've got to follow the law," Nielander said. "What can you do?"