What the overtime rule will mean for higher ed

Faculty members, some advisors are exempt

A new overtime rule could bring more pay to many higher education employees—but could also send some colleges and universities into a scramble to fund the benefits.

Released by the White House on Tuesday, the rule requires employers to extend overtime benefits to more workers. Previously, employers only needed to offer overtime pay to workers making less than $23,660 per year. But the new rule raises that threshold, requiring employers to provide overtime pay to workers making less than $47,476 per year.

The Obama administration also released a document clarifying how higher education administrators should apply the rule.

Employees considered teachers are exempt, as they were in the past. This includes faculty members, adjuncts, and teaching assistants regardless of tenure status. It may also include athletic coaches who focus on teaching their sport rather than recruiting or other duties.

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Some advisors and other employees whose primary job involves helping students may also be exempt.

Most postdocs have salaries below the threshold and would be eligible for the rule, but the Obama administration encouraged college leaders to raise their salaries above the threshold rather than initiating overtime pay.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten applauded the new rule. "For thousands of AFT members who work long hours for their patients and students without receiving fair overtime, including public employees, nurses and administrative workers in schools and colleges, their pay will finally reflect their hard work." 

However, some industry leaders are concerned about the financial burden of the rule.

"Requiring such a dramatic and costly change to be implemented so quickly will leave many colleges with no choice but to respond to this regulation with a combination of tuition increases, service reductions and, possibly, layoffs," said American Council on Education (ACE) President Molly Corbett Broad.

Steven Bloom, director of government relations at ACE, also said many colleges will probably be forced to raise tuition to cover the new rule's cost. Alternately, Bloom says, colleges may need to cut programs or lay off employees (Carapezza, "On Campus," WGBH, 5/18; Arnett, Education Dive, 5/18; Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 5/18).

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