New Wage Rules Leave Students and Employers Frustrated

By Paige Kube



On Jan. 22, an email from Controller Penelope Farley outlined changes to student employment. This Student Employment Policy states students can work a maximum of 25 hours per week this semester. One goal of the change was to encourage supervisors to keep track of the total amount of hours student employees are working each week. However, the limit on hours is raising concerns among students and faculty.

This email stated the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a main factor in this change. When a campus employee works 30 or more hours per week, they become eligible for the College’s health insurance program under the ACA. With some students working multiple jobs on campus, many could qualify for coverage.

Although most students have school insurance or outside insurance coverage that does not exempt them from having the option of the College’s health insurance program and its benefits.

“If the employee has multiple options for health insurance (e.g., through a parent or spouse, or offered to them as a student), then the employee has the option to pick the coverage that best meets his or her needs and budget,” said Mark Hampton, vice president for finance and administration. “The ACA does provide an exemption for students who are employed through workstudy but all other student work is included in the definition of employee.”

Although the ACA was in fact a reason for the change in payment, academics were another influence.

New hours restrictions on student workers is leaving many employers short on manpower and many students short on paycheck.
New hours restrictions on student workers is leaving many employers short on manpower and many students short on paycheck.

“In extensive consultation with the Provost’s Office, it was decided that students who worked more than 20-25 hours were at risk of compromising their academic studies, social engagement, and leadership and career development,” said Hampton.

Since this change was made because some students were working 30 or more hours perweek, limiting employment hours may cause students to quit jobs or cut back hours at many jobs.

“I understand that the limit of 20 hours/week is not a Washington College decision,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Anne Marteel-Parrish. “I just share the frustration of students who are involved in all kinds of paid activities on campus such as course mentor, peer tutor, and lab assistant, for example. These students are in great academic standings, they devote their time to help others succeed, and they do it really well… I feel that we are penalizing the students who are capable of managing the work load of 20 hours a week or more without having an impact on their grades.”

Junior Rachel Kurtz, like many other students, works several on-campus jobs, and the limit on hours may impact what positions she can continue to hold. “I’m still unsure if I have to give up any of my jobs because they still haven’t told us the hours peer mentors and student government are working each week. With the decrease in 20 hours next semester, I am definitely going to have to sit down and figure out which jobs I can and cannot do.”

Though the Jan. 22 email explained the Student Employment Policy set a maximum of 25 hours per week this semester and a maximum of 20 hours per week beginning in the fall, Hampton said there are no plans to lower the maximum to 20 hours per week next semester.

Even without lowering hours to 20 hours per week, Kurtz’s employment may still be affected. “It’s very tricky with things like Math Center and Safe Ride because my hours fluctuate every week…depending on if I have individual appointments or if I work the just the Kent Crossing shuttle instead of a full Safe Ride shift.”

If the students were able to work more than 30 hours a week during the school year, they would be unable to work full time on campus during the summer. “Since many students work for the College full-time during the summer, it was felt that the 25-hour limit was appropriate in that it limited the impact of student employment on academic work and progress and still allowed students to work full-time during the summer,” said Hampton.

In efforts to involve the student opinion in this change, Provost and Dean Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright met with senior and SGA Vice President Maddie Zins who voiced students’ concerns regarding the changes. Zins intends to follow up with Dean ChamleeWright with more student input in the future.

“The question of what constitutes an acceptable number of hours for student employment is not an easy one to answer, and we will continue to refine this policy and our overall approach to student employment,” said Hampton. “Rather than seeing employment at the College as a way for students to earn spending money, the College would like to see student employment become a key part of our overall career development strategy.”

For students who rely on more than 30 hours a week to help pay for school and other necessities, Hampton encourages them to visit the Financial Aid Office for additional help.

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