Sen. Ed Kennedy (D-Lowell) testified July 12 before the Joint Committee on Higher Education in favor of S.841 An Act Investing in Public Higher Education, a bill he filed that would provide health insurance to adjunct faculty at state-run institutions of higher education.
“This legislation takes a meaningful step towards recognizing the value of adjunct faculty to our public higher education landscape by expanding their access to health care benefits, for which many adjunct faculty members at our public institutions are currently not eligible,” said Kennedy, adding that a substantial percentage of teaching faculty at state universities, community colleges and UMass campuses are adjunct instructors.
At UMass Lowell, for instance, at least 475 adjunct professors are part of the faculty,
representing roughly 45 percent of the teaching staff on campus, according to the adjunct faculty union.
“We increasingly rely on adjunct faculty to ensure that our students are prepared to participate in our state’s economy and civic life in a meaningful way,” said Kennedy.
“Despite adjuncts dutifully fulfilling this vital role on each one of our public campuses, they are often not able to access the same benefits as other workers. In particular, because of the atypical nature of the work schedules of adjuncts, these instructors are often not eligible for employer-based health insurance.”
S.841 would address this glaring inadequacy by expanding access to health insurance under the Commonwealth’s Group Insurance Commission to include faculty that teach two three-credit courses in a semester, or four courses in an academic year. This bill stipulates that the Commonwealth, not the intuitions of higher education, shall bear the associated costs.
“This bill, if enacted, will serve as a reflection of our acknowledgment of the critical role that adjuncts play in our public higher education system, and by extension our Commonwealth as a whole,” said Kennedy. “It will provide a well- deserved benefit to hard working adjuncts and will strengthen the caliber of instruction they are able to provide and thereby elevate public higher education at every level.”