Commentary

Higher education group: Proposed 2% pay hikes for university faculty won’t cut it

In case you missed it, the good folks at the advocacy group known as the Higher Education Works Foundation explained succinctly yesterday why the House budget’s proposal of a 2% pay raise for university faculty is woefully inadequate:

“The budget proposal adopted last week by the state House includes raises of 2% plus a $500 bonus for state employees, and raises for K-12 teachers that average 4.1%.1

A raise for University faculty is long overdue and welcome – they’ve had just one raise from the General Assembly in seven years.

But 2% is not enough.

The Board of Governors that oversees the University system asked legislators this year only for raises comparable to those of other state employees.

But if we expect our state’s public universities to hire and retain the best instructors for our children, we need to cast our sights beyond the state line.

North Carolina’s public universities aren’t competing with other state agencies for talent – they’re competing with institutions across the nation, and in some cases around the globe.

“Our chancellors have to be able to recruit and retain the very best in the country,” Harry Smith, chair of the Board of Governors’ Budget & Finance Committee, said in March.  “The competition level has ramped up so much.”

In addition to teaching, University faculty attract more than $1.35 billion a year in research dollars.2

Yet a survey done this spring revealed that average faculty salaries at 11 of North Carolina’s 16 public universities now fall below the 50th percentile compared with their peer institutions.3

The 50th percentile isn’t a particularly ambitious goal, but at UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University, the system’s flagships, it would take 6% raises just to reach the median among comparable institutions.

As faculty salaries stagnated in recent years, our public universities found themselves subject to serious poaching.  From 2012-14, 76% of UNC system faculty who received offers from competing institutions took those offers.  Of 320 professors who left, 93 took $91 million in grant dollars with them.4

Similarly, at just $47,400, the average faculty salary at North Carolina’s community colleges ranks 11th out of 16 Southeastern states.5

As a state, if we hope to attract and keep the best teachers for our children at every level, we need to do better than 2% raises.


1 http://ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Budget/2016/House_Committee_Report_2016-05-18.pdf, pp. F20, F4.
2https://www.northcarolina.edu/sites/default/files/documents/presidents_report_on_research_sponsored_programs_2015.pdf
3 http://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/index.php?mode=browse_premeeting&mid=5630&code=bog, Committee on Budget & Finance, Item 2, p. 26.
4UNC General Administration, “Faculty Retention Efforts, July 2012-June 2014.”
5 http://www.nccommunitycolleges.edu/sites/default/files/state-board/finance/fc_04_2016_budget_priorities.pdf

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