Sybil Low by Sybil Low

Colleges and universities across the United States are voicing concerns over the Biden administration’s proposal to extend overtime eligibility to millions of workers, including thousands in higher education. The plan involves raising the income cutoff for overtime pay by 55 percent, which institutions fear could lead to tuition hikes and staff layoffs.

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Key Takeaways

  • Higher education institutions warn of possible tuition hikes and staff cuts if the proposed overtime rule is implemented.
  • More than 33,000 comments were filed against the administration’s plan, highlighting the industry’s concerns.
  • Implementing the new rule could cost colleges millions, challenging their budgets and potentially impacting student services.

The Biden administration’s proposal aims to increase the salary threshold for overtime pay eligibility from $35,568 to at least $55,068. This change would affect various roles in higher education, including admissions officers, counselors, advisers, and some administrative and athletic staff. However, faculty and primary teaching staff would remain exempt due to federal labor law.

Colleges and universities are alarmed at the potential financial implications of the rule. For example, Lipscomb University estimates an implementation cost of nearly $400,000, while Ohio University predicts a $6 million annual expense. Institutions argue that these additional costs could lead to service reductions and increased tuition fees. They are urging the Biden administration to reconsider or at least phase in the increase over time.

Broader Industry Opposition

The higher education sector, backed by House and Senate Republicans, is strongly opposing the rule change. They argue that the proposal could devastate small businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions, already struggling from economic challenges.

Educational institutions, ranging from community colleges to large public universities, have expressed concerns about the budgetary strain the rule change would impose. They have detailed the potential costs in their public comments, with some, like Bellevue University, finding the expenses “untenable.”

Differing Perspectives

However, while higher education institutions oppose the change, labor unions and worker advocacy groups support it, arguing that it would provide fair compensation for overworked and underpaid employees. These groups emphasize the need for relief for those struggling to make ends meet.

Several universities, including the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, warn that the rule change could negatively affect research funding and operations. They argue that increasing staff costs might reduce the funds available for actual research.

The University of Dayton’s Case Study

The University of Dayton illustrates the rule’s potential impact, estimating a cost of $2.2 million annually just to raise salaries above the threshold. The university stresses the difficulty of managing these costs without impacting student services or community investments.


As the higher education sector awaits the final decision on the overtime rule, institutions are preparing for potential financial challenges that could reshape their operational and educational models. This situation underscores the complex balance between fair labor practices and the financial viability of educational institutions.


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