Graduate Research Assistants and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Issued February 9, 2016 Effective February 14, 2016
Table of Contents
Graduate Research Assistants are graduate students who, in the course of their academic training, are employed in part-time temporary research positions, where the student's academic training is based in part of the research performed or where the research duties being performed will assist the student in fulfilling his or her degree requirements. All duties and services of graduate and undergraduate research assistants are to be carried out under the supervision and direction of faculty or administration.
To be hired as a GRA, the employee must be concurrently enrolled in the K-State Graduate School. The GRA must be enrolled in at least six semester credit hours at K-State during the academic year and at least three credit hours at K-State during the summer session. Concurrent enrollment is not required for employment during the summer session for those that were enrolled in at least six semester credit hours at K-State during the preceding spring semester.
GRA employment is comparable to "adjunct faculty" as defined by the Affordable Care Act for the following reasons:
- GRAs are assigned and are compensated for research work associated with their status as graduate students and the degree they are seeking.
- GRA compensation is not based on actual time spent on research work assigned to them, comparable to instructional responsibilities of adjuncts.
- GRAs are compensated and paid for the value of the portion of their work attributable to employment. It is inherent to the position that a portion of their research work is primarily educational in nature and is categorized as such.
- Research work may be simultaneously performed as an employee and as a student in a graduate program.
For these reasons, K-State has determined that percent/FTE of a GRA appointment will be used to determine ACA eligibility for GRA appointments.
Graduate Research Assistants may be appointed on a full time equivalency (FTE) of 0.5 or below. This 0.5 FTE (20 hours of hours reported for ACA purposes) may be combined with multiple GRA appointments with the combination of FTE no greater than 0.5. The GRA may also be on a separate student employee appointment with a limit of an additional ten hours worked per week.
The combination of all graduate and student employee appointments may not exceed the equivalent of .75 FTE which translates to 30 hours weekly.
GRAs' primary association with K-State is to progress and complete their degree program for their own educational benefit.
Immigration regulations also limit the number of work hours per week. Students on F-1 and J-1 Visas are limited during the academic year, excluding student recesses, to 20 hours per week. During the summer semester, international students (F-1 and J-1 visas) are limited to 30 hours per week while enrolled in four or more credit hours and to 40 hours during the other weeks. When employed in more than one department concurrently, the sum of hours worked in all departments may not exceed these maximums, Kansas State University Policy and Procedures, Chapter 4720, Maximum Hours
Graduate Research Assistants are paid on a biweekly rate rather than an hourly rate. However, they are still subject to applicable minimum wage requirements and must be paid a biweekly rate that equates to an hourly rate that is no less than the applicable minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. The Council of Deans along with the Graduate School has established minimum compensation levels of $3,750 per academic semester for master's degree students on 0.5 FTE appointments and $4,250 per academic semester for doctoral students on 0.5 FTE appointments.
There is no maximum wage. Graduate Research Assistants are paid biweekly on the same pay schedule as all other University employees.
All hours worked must be combined for all appointments with the University and any other State agency within the prior measurement period. Human Capital Services is responsible for determining what work hours count toward eligibility for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ensuring compliance with the rules regarding breaks in service, and departments are responsible for providing the data required by HCS to make that determination.
Departments and units at K-State are responsible for ensuring Graduate Research Assistants do not exceed the maximum number of work hours associated with the appointment FTE. Departments must also consider all active K-State appointments on all campuses and with all State of Kansas agencies.
To ensure compliance with K-State policies and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees must accurately report actual hours worked. GRA positions are exempt positions and employees in those positions do not need to report time worked.
Graduate Research Assistants are limited to a total FTE of .75. The GRA should not work more than 30 hours per week in all concurrent positions.
Questions about this policy may be directed to Human Capital Services, Benefits (firstname.lastname@example.org) (785) 532-6277