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UNC faculty pay proposals: Not nearly enough

The good people at Higher Education Works have a new post (“Reward teachers at every level” [1]) on the latest budget developments at the General Assembly and the destructive impact that years of neglect have had on faculty pay in the UNC system. After noting that lawmakers propose to provide substantial raises for public school teachers (in the Senate budget, the raises would average 6.5%) the post puts it this way:

“The move is part of an effort to raise average teacher salaries to $54,000 over two years, and K-12 teachers – many of them graduates of our state’s public universities – deserve those raises.

But so do all the people who teach our children.

The Senate budget proposal cuts taxes faster and rewards state workers – including community college and university faculty – less than the House’s proposal.

The Senate would offer state workers merit-based raises that average 1%, plus merit-based bonuses that would also average 1%. The House, by contrast, offered raises of 2%, plus a $500 bonus – and even that’s not enough.

University faculty have gone seven years with just one raise from the legislature, and 11 of our 16 public universities in North Carolina now fall below the median for average faculty salaries compared with their peer institutions.  Instructors at UNC Chapel Hill and NC State would need raises of roughly 6% just to reach the 50th percentile.

Stagnant salaries have already taken their toll.  From 2012-14, of 419 faculty members across the system who received outside offers, 76% accepted those offers.  This poaching comes as faculty at our public universities are attracting $1.35 billion in research dollars.

Faculty in North Carolina community colleges lag as well; the average faculty salary of $47,400 ranks 11th among 16 Southeastern states.

The bottom line: Absent a dramatic shift, the 2017 state budget will be yet another one in which state leaders will have largely neglected the state’s higher education system. Our citizens and economy will suffer as a result.