On campus jobs may be harder to come by for some students
Published: Monday, September 2, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 00:09
Many students were employed by multiple departments to make their paycheck when they left for summer break. But after they moved-in for the new semester, some may be left without one of those jobs.
New laws from the 83rd Texas Legislature implemented on Sunday redefines full-time employees from 40 hours per week to 30 hours per week. The law is a reactionary move by the state due to sections of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
“The heart of the issue is a couple of things is the (ACA) put things in place that makes some employees eligible for insurance that weren’t previously,” said Associate Vice President for Human Resources David Hammonds. “Now (employees that work) 30 hours or more were eligible, before it wasn’t. The White House has backed off on ACA implementation, but the Employee Retirement System of Texas (ERS) has already put this in place.”
Senate Bills 1 and 1459 leave Sam Houston State University in a bind as they require the university to pay all students’ insurance premiums for those that work 30 hours or more a week. This doesn’t ban all students from working more than 29 hours a week, merely puts extra financial pressure on the university.
Many on-campus employers, even with no ban on working past 30 hours, could be hesitant to hire a student already working another job for fear they would have to shell out extra cash, according to Hammonds.
“It’s a cost issue. I suspect that if employers know you’re working in another department, they’ll know you will be limited in the number of hours,” Hammonds said. “If they are looking for a student who can work so many hours, then that particular student can’t.”
Junior interdisciplinary studies major Stephen O’Neill Green works for the athletics department promotions team, or Taco Bell Power Patrol. He also worked as an intramural referee until this year when he was forced to choose between his two jobs.
“For the past two years, I have also worked as an intramural volleyball referee for the 4-5 weeks that volleyball is in season,” Green said. “This year, I basically had to choose between the two. I chose athletics because it’s a full-year job, but it’s still uncool that I now have to miss out on 4-5 weeks of extra money that really helps.”
Green said that he hadn’t actually gotten the referee job, but that with the new legislation he wouldn’t even be able to go through the process of being hired. Some departments require students who continue to work multiple jobs to sign a promise not to work 30 hours more than between the multiple jobs.
The university already advises departments not to hold students to work more than 20 hours because at that point Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes are withdrawn, Hammonds said. These include money given to Social Security at 6.2 percent, and to Medicare at 1.45 percent. The university must match that amount, making it more expensive for a university to have student workers that regularly work more than 20 hours.
FICA has an exemption for universities that employ students part-time, so long as the education, not employment, remains the “main purpose” of the student attending the university, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
“FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes do not apply to service performed by students employed by a school, college or university where the student is pursuing a course of study,” the IRS website says. “Whether the organization is a school, college or university depends on the organization’s primary function. In addition, whether employees are students for this purpose requires examining the individual’s employment relationship with the employer to determine if employment or education is predominant in the relationship.”
To combat this, universities set up individual rules to prevent the chance that students would become more employee than student, thus eligible for FICA taxes every time, regardless if a student works less than 20 hours a week. Basically, if a student’s relationship to the university is more of an employee than as a student, then they no longer participate in the FICA exemption.
Many colleges and universities have a “20-hour” rule to make sure that the student’s primary focus is education; like Sul Ross State University, Vanderbilt University, University of Illinois and Arizona State University. Their policies forbid students to work more than 20 hours in a week or risk losing their job.
Hammonds said this is another reason why students may have difficulty finding secondary on-campus work.
“The (7.65) percent would be deducted from your check and the employer has to match that,” he said.
“If the student worker is working over 20 hours a week. There’s a cost factor.”
SHSU doesn’t have such a policy, but does take FICA taxes out at more than 20 hours automatically to avoid complications. The universities policies only currently define who can be a student worker, and not necessarily how much they work. It reflects the state Insurance Code, Section 153.
“Student employees must be here primarily for the purpose of going to school and hold a position which is classified as a student job,” the policy states. “They must be currently enrolled at SHSU, and should carry at least six semester hours during the fall and spring semesters. To be eligible to work during the summer if not enrolled, they must have been enrolled as described above during the preceding spring semester, or registered for the next fall semester. Enrollment in courses that are not eligible for financial aid does not qualify as eligible semester hours for student employment. Students who withdraw or fail to make satisfactory academic progress are immediately ineligible for student employment.”