Special Reports

Biden's Labor Rule Mandates Higher Education Pay Raises


Colleges and universities across the United States are bracing for a significant change in labor regulations as the Biden administration's new rule comes into effect.

This rule, finalized by the U.S. Department of Labor, mandates that higher education institutions must provide either a pay raise or overtime benefits to thousands of admissions officers, student affairs professionals, and athletics staffers. This move marks a substantial shift from previous regulations, impacting millions of American workers nationwide.

Biden's Labor Rule Mandates Higher Education Pay Raises

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / The White House)

Impact on Higher Education

The new rule, with a final implementation deadline of January 1, 2025, requires employers to raise the minimum salary threshold for exempt employees to $58,656, a substantial increase from the previous threshold of $35,568. This change will affect a wide range of employees in higher education, including those who were previously exempt from overtime pay requirements.

For many colleges and universities, this presents a significant challenge. The higher education sector is already grappling with declining enrollment and underfunding from states. The sudden increase in labor costs will put additional strain on budgets, potentially leading to cuts in services, reduced financial aid, and increased tuition fees.

READ MORE: Biden Administration Overhauls Title IX, Strengthening Protections And Redefining Procedures 

Challenges and Concerns

One of the main challenges facing colleges and universities is the short timeline for compliance. With less than a year to adjust to the new rule, institutions must quickly assess which employees will be affected and determine the best course of action. This may involve raising salaries, tracking work hours more closely, or in some cases, letting employees go.

Opponents of the ruling argue that it goes too far, too fast, and will force college leaders to come up with millions of dollars in increased wages at a time when resources are already limited. Organizations representing lower-paid employees in higher education, however, see the rule as a step in the right direction, benefiting those who are currently overworked and underpaid.

Legal and Administrative Hurdles

The new rule is likely to face legal challenges, similar to previous efforts to update labor regulations. Experts believe that the rule may be challenged in court, which could delay or block its implementation. The conservative-leaning court and the relatively recent raise in the threshold from $23,660 to $35,568 during the Trump administration could make it harder for the Biden administration's rule to survive legal scrutiny.

Despite the potential legal challenges, some experts believe that the rule has a good chance of surviving litigation. The phased-in implementation, which updates the minimum salary based on the 20th percentile of weekly earnings in the lowest wage census region, may help the rule withstand legal challenges.

The Biden administration's new labor rule represents a significant change for colleges and universities across the country. While it aims to provide fair compensation for employees, especially those who are currently overworked and underpaid, it also poses challenges for institutions already facing financial constraints. As the implementation deadline approaches, colleges and universities will need to carefully assess the impact of the new rule and make strategic decisions to comply with the regulations while maintaining their core mission of serving students and advancing research.

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