Free college! Free health care! More opportunities for college students! More jobs for graduates, guaranteed!
Statements like these have been used in some context by President Obama and his liberal allies since before the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Barack Obama has won over support for his agenda through attractive promises and bold statements, but never through meaningful results or genuine leadership.
Specifically among young voters, he has made promises that his health care reforms would prevent young adults from being kicked off their parents’ health insurance policies until they reach the age of 26. Obamacare is also supposed to protect students’ economic interests, health, and safety by mandating insurance for student employees, yet another promise that lured young Americans to the polls but has left us worse off.
Here at Penn State, the true effects of President Obama’s promises are quickly coming to light. And, just like at many other college campuses across the nation, students are having their rights, their jobs, their wages, and their potential stripped away by government regulated health insurance.
According to Susan Basso, Penn State’s Vice President for Human Resources, the current law will have a “significant, negative impact on the university budget” which will surely be passed onto current and prospective students in the form of higher tuition costs, other fees, and reduced funding to other programs that benefit students, like club sports. By mandating that the university provide health benefits to on-campus employees working over 30 hours a week, the ACA adds on another $23 million each year to Penn State’s expense account. Find a government subsidy to fix that.
To mitigate these costs, the University is preparing to do what countless other businesses have already done: cut back employee hours. Starting on January 1st, no student will be allowed to work more than 20 hours a week at any on-campus, university operated location. This includes, but is not limited to, the dining commons, the bookstores, and the residence halls. Advocates of the law at PSU and others still mesmerized by Obama’s promises mention how students can work at non-university operated locations nearby to make up for the lost income, but if you think about that, that second job could have been a job for someone else.
A reduction of hours hurts students, especially considering that many students who take jobs while in school need the extra cash to pay for (or at least assist their parents in paying for) tuition, textbooks, and, believe it or not, private health insurance, among other things.
Now, thanks to the ACA, students will have to combat higher expenses passed unto them by the University with lower incomes. Let’s look at a specific example: Resident Assistants.
At PSU, the University hires qualified students to serve as Resident Assistants (RAs) in the dormitories. RAs live in the dorms to which they are assigned, and are charged with the responsibility of keeping things safe and relatively orderly. They make sure all of the residents are following the rules of their housing contracts, offer advice to students facing particular dilemmas while living in the dorm, and generally serve as a point of connection between the University and the student.
Technically, RAs already work 20 hours a week, as the RAs in any given building usually divide the responsibilities on a nightly basis. But starting January 1st, thanks to Obamacare, the RAs will no longer be allowed to work at any other on-campus location because their allotted 20 hours has already been spent. Who knows, maybe in the upcoming semesters Penn State will face a shortage of applicants wishing to become RAs. After all, who would want to be ordered, essentially by the government, into the confinement of one single occupation?
“No you can’t.” These are the words many Penn State student employees will be hearing in the coming months from University administrators. “No you can’t work a little harder for an extra buck or two.” Perhaps worse is the overarching message being sent by the U.S. government to students: “Yes, we can, but no, you can’t… Yes, we can decide what’s best for you, and no, you can’t thrive without our approval. We’ll decide whats best for you.”
The government insists that it is protecting the most vulnerable, in this case by guaranteeing uninsured students the “benefit” of employer insurance. But the simple reality is that the Affordable Care Act makes students more vulnerable, by regulating how much students can earn and therefore how much they can afford. Quality private health insurance, alone made more expensive by the ACA, is now further out of students’ reach, potentially forcing many to accept Obamacare subsidies.
What does all this amount to? A generation controlled by government, a future burdened by debt, and a dangerous precedent facilitating the continued growth of both of the above. Students all across the country, but particularly at Penn State, will now have to fight more restrictions to their fundamental right to work. Through promises of “benefits” and “protection,” the government has seized control of students’ ability to work hard, and thereby diminished their potential.
Terence Ford | Pennsylvania State University | @tford616