Community colleges may take brunt of overtime rule change

'Most of our campuses will be impacted'

The Obama administration's overtime pay rule proposal will likely increase financial pressure on community colleges if put into effect, Ashley Smith reports for Inside Higher Ed.

Released by the White House last week, 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.

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

"We do know that most of our campuses will be impacted, with many having scores of employees who will fall under the new threshold," says David Baime, SVP for government relations and policy analysis for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). "Most of our campuses simply are not in a position to provide significant compensation increases and so they will have to manage around the new regulation."

According to the AACC, 386 colleges pay financial and business operations staff less than $47,000 on average, and 364 schools pay engineering and science administrative staff less than $47,000.

Librarians, financial aid officers, and tutors may all also be affected—and some high-level employees might be as well.

"Some administrators could be affected," says Mark Heinrich, the Alabama Community College System's chancellor. "It's really all over the map … This is still so new that we're digesting what this means for us."

In Iowa, the rule change will have a $10 million effect on the region's community colleges, according to the state's Association of Community College Trustees.

More than half of Iowa's system's revenue is derived from tuition, which means students' costs may go up or layoffs may take place, says M.J. Dolan, the association's executive director.

The issue resides in states' divestment from higher education, says Bob Fernandez, a political organizer for the Congress of Connecticut Community Colleges. "Both union and management would agree with that," he says.

Some college leaders say they're concerned the rule change will lead to fewer student advisers, which may mean lower persistence rates.

"It's a hot topic for us these days, because some of these jobs are crucial to increasing completion numbers and student success," says Linda Fund, executive director of the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees (Smith, Inside Higher Ed, 5/23).

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