Politics & Policy

Students Pay for College’s Obamacare Implementation

University hikes tuition to cover Affordable Care Act mandates.

Students at the University of South Carolina will face significant tuition hikes next year as the school implements Affordable Care Act mandates for its employees.

The public university will spend almost $18 million to pay for state-mandated employee pay raises and retirement benefits, as well as the costs of implementing Obamacare, according to The Times and Democrat.

A press release from USC explained that the school “began this year’s legislative budget cycle with great optimism. Students, parents and alumni joined in the call to freeze tuition in return for the state providing a modest funding increase and covering state-mandated spending increases.”

Instead, the university is likely to impose a 3.2 percent tuition increase, or about $342 a year for in-state students.

Campus officials expressed frustration with the requirements, accusing the state of imposing mandates without providing any financial assistance. According to the university’s budget data, the state provides no funding for salaries, benefits, or health insurance for employees in “auxiliary enterprises.” It also does not provide for the mandated increases in employer contribution to retirement nor expected costs from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

President Harris Pastides said in a campus-wide news release, “We are now at a critical tipping point. The current trajectory is no longer sustainable for our students, parents and taxpayers.”

USC chief operating officer Ed Walton also expressed his concern regarding the budget hike. He explained that though the state’s support for many public entities has increased since the recession, South Carolina’s college system is relying increasingly on student tuition. “We are very concerned about the long-term effects of increased costs mounting upon the university without additional resources,” Walton said.

The Affordable Care Act requires that large employers provide health insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours a week, or face fines of up to $2,000 per employee. It also will include benefits for adjunct professors who are not eligible under current rules. According to its budget data, the university plans to spend up to $4.5 million on the act’s implementation in the first six months of 2015.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Governor Nikki Haley, told The Post and Courier called the situation “a tragedy.”

“Our state universities don’t need a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic mess forced on them,” he said. “They need the kinds of reforms that will streamline their operations and actually help students be successful — reforms the governor has and will continue to support.”

Universities across the nation are facing steep cost increases from mandated health insurance. Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota has introduced legislation to exempt schools, colleges, and universities from the Obamacare mandate. “ObamaCare’s employer mandate is not only destroying jobs in the education system, but it also continues to drive up tuition prices for students suffering in the sluggish Obama economy,” he said in a statement. “School budgets should enhance students’ educations — not pay for the president’s health care law.”

— Molly Wharton is an intern at National Review.


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