Posted by & filed under AdjunctWorld Resources.

ashkan-forouzani-ignxm3E1Rg4-unsplashOver the past decade (at least) there has been, and continues to be, a great deal of controversy in the case of the employee benefits that an adjunct instructor is often denied. Benefits, as defined in the lives of the adjunct faculty, revolve largely around health benefits—health insurance—and pensions. In either case, benefits are far too often lacking for adjunct faculty.

Colleges often do not offer benefits, either through health insurance or pensions, to online adjunct faculty. But some do—and peace of mind is a matter of finding those colleges. The reason this is so lies in the fact that adjuncts typically do not—or cannot—work the hours required for an employer to provide health care.

Colleges all too frequently limit the amount of hours a single adjunct instructor can work, falling beneath the requisite 30 hours per week that guarantees—by federal law—the provision of health benefits. Pensions, too, are left out of the conversation. There are, however, exceptions, and those exceptions are worth exploring.

Under What Circumstances Will a College Offer Benefits?

In 2013, the federal government issued provisions specific to adjunct faculty in the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, which determines the standard by which employers must offer health care to employees.

The federal government set hours-based equivalents for teaching classes, and they differ from the credit hours a college affixes to a class. Under ACA guidelines, for each “classroom hour” taught by an adjunct, a college must count 2.25 work hours (this accounts for not only classroom teaching time but prep work, as well) (NACUBO, 2014). A typical 3.0-hour class (meaning, the class meets for three hours a week) means that the hours worked would actually be 6.75. The federal guidelines also stipulates that a college must add one additional hour per week to cover office hours. In all, for a single 3.0-hour class, one would work, under the ACA definition, 7.75 hours a week per class.

A full-time employee, under ACA rules, must be provided health insurance benefits. A full-time employee, the ACA stipulates, works 30 hours a week (Internal Revenue Service, 2021). If you taught four classes, each 3.0 hours, for one college, you are considered by law to be a full-time employee.

If you find yourself in this position, the college is obligated, by law, to comply with ACA rules or face penalties. But as we’ve found, colleges will simply restrict the number of hours that an adjunct can work, and by that strategy they will not be required to offer benefits.

How Many Credits Can You Teach?

michael-skok-xCbD8Gi0Lck-unsplashShortly after the announcement of the new ACA rules, the American Federation of Teachers released a list of nearly forty colleges or college systems in twenty states that restricted the number of classes an adjunct could teach. Many colleges on the list limited adjuncts to teaching only 9 credit hours per semester, amounting to three classes (remember that teaching four classes, or 12 credit hours, requires health benefit coverage). In some cases, colleges limited work hours to 29, or even 29.75 hours a week (30 hours requires health benefit coverage).

The list came from newspapers, human resources documents, and even faculty whistleblowers across the nation. No matter the case, at these colleges—at least at the time—one could not expect health insurance benefits. At many, this is still the case.

Despite that fact, and beyond the controversy generated by compliance with the ACA in terms of adjunct teaching, there are colleges that offer health benefits—and more.

Who Offers Benefits?

Even a quick online search turns up, on the search engine’s first page, six colleges that offer benefits to adjunct faculty.

The Grossman-Cuyamaca Community College District in California—which at the time of this writing was hiring online instructors—offers a health, dental, and vision plan.

The City College of New York (CCNY) offers benefits to adjuncts who have taught at least one course for two consecutive semesters, who maintain at least six teaching hours per week, and are not otherwise covered by another job, a spouse’s job, or a government entity (like, say, Medicaid). They can enroll in the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) so long as their current appointment is for at least 45 hours.

The Community College of Philadelphia likewise offers a health insurance plan. Adjunct instructors are offered two choices: they may elect coverage offered by the college and pay a portion of the premiums, or they may choose to hold their own plan, for which the college will reimburse a portion. Depending on the pool one falls in, the college will pay either half the coverage or even 75 percent of the coverage! They also offer prescription drug benefits, a dental plan, and basic life insurance.

vitaliy-nqyK3NuwC6E-unsplashIn some cases, benefits might be defined as something broader. According to their website, the Community College of Philadelphia offers, in addition to these benefits, a basic 403(b) retirement plan and one week of paid sick leave per semester. They also offer tuition remission for one course per semester and a computer loan program.

Does this go for online adjunct faculty, as well? It does. At the time of this writing, for example, CCP was hiring for online psychology instructors. The adjunct can teach up to two online courses.

Some schools simply offer the opportunity to enroll in healthcare benefits regardless of the number of hours work. This, however, does not mean that the premium is low or consistent with what you might pay as a full time employee. In other words, you will have the option to enroll in benefits, but it might be the case that nearly your entire paycheck each month goes to cover your insurance premium. For some, this may not be a bad thing – teaching at one school to offset the cost to one’s family for health insurance might seem like a fair trade. To others, it may seem like highway robbery; it depends on your perspective.

Realities to Consider

According to an October 2017 report by the U. S. Government Accountability Office, barely over 35% of part-time college instructors have health care through a work-provided plan. That number varies by state, of course; in North Dakota, the report found the number to be 9.1 percent, and in Georgia only 7.1 percent.

What this means is that you should be prepared to give deep consideration to health insurance coverage. In order to be covered, that means you can do one of two things outright: one, look for teaching assignments at colleges that offer health insurance and other benefits to contingent faculty; two, be prepared to cover health care costs yourself, which may mean looking for teaching assignments that pay the highest.

Granted, you may have insurance through a spouse, or you may even have governmental assistance. If such is the case, you are fortunate. If not, you will have to plan in advance to be sure you are covered.

Granted, you may have insurance through a spouse, or you may even have governmental assistance. If such is the case, you are fortunate. If not, you will have to plan in advance to be sure you are covered. You may search for, and end up finding, colleges where contingent faculty are allowed to or even encouraged to work over 30 hours a week, qualifying you for benefits. Do your research. Find what will sustain you.



Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (2021). Identifying full-time employees.

Government Accountability Office (2017). Contingent workforce: Size, characteristics, and work experiences of adjunct and other non-tenure-track faculty.

National Association of Colleges and University Business Officers (NACUBO) (2014). Affordable Care Act: Final rules on coverage for adjuncts and students.

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