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OR Bill Would Add Health Care for Strained College Instructors

Under an Oregon bill, part-time college and university faculty would have to pay only 10% of their insurance premium costs. (Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock)
Under an Oregon bill, part-time college and university faculty would have to pay only 10% of their insurance premium costs. (Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock)
February 14, 2020

SALEM, Ore. - Part-time college professors are struggling to afford health care. A bill in the Oregon Legislature would change that.

Adjunct faculty at Oregon colleges and universities may not be eligible for health insurance, even if they teach a full load by working at multiple institutions. Sarah Chivers says she juggles teaching at three colleges and universities every quarter.

In her 16 years, Chivers says she's never been offered health coverage, and rising insurance costs are making it difficult for her across the board.

"For me, the biggest challenge is making rent and making sure I'll be able to cover my health care," says Chivers. "There's ways to find subsidies and support around food insecurity. I have a lot of community around me that helps with child-care costs. Transportation is a challenge sometimes, although I'm pretty fortunate."

Chivers says some colleges limit the number of hours in her course loads so they don't have to offer benefits.

Under House Bill 4146, qualifying faculty would pay 10% of their insurance premiums and the state would pay the rest. The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates this would cost about $35 million between 2021 to 2023.

Maria Sorrentino has taught coding as part-time faculty at Clackamas Community College since 2001. Three years ago, she found out she was eligible for health insurance, but had it taken away last year.

Unable to afford coverage, Sorrentino is uninsured. She says she's been left out in the cold knows other instructors who feel the same way.

"The profession is losing valuable people because of this incredible inequity in the way teaching staff is treated, especially part-time faculty," says Sorrentino. "We don't even get paid the same amount that full-time faculty get, and yet we do just as much work."

Chivers says health-care costs put a strain not only on her, but her two kids as well.

"Just barely making it from year to year makes it a real challenge to forecast how to save for their college education," says Chivers. "So, this has generational impacts."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR