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Saturday April 1st

Salary Concerns May Affect Tuition

According to the Annual Faculty Salary Survey for the 2000-01 academic year, UNC ranks 29th out of 86 research institutions.

Faculty leaders and University administrators have long argued that UNC's faculty compensation -- which is below its peer institutions' -- negatively affects retention and recruitment.

The UNC Board of Trustees is expected to act on a tuition proposal, which might fund faculty salary increases, Jan. 24.

But some experts say it will take more than large paychecks to attract professors to Chapel Hill and to keep existing faculty from leaving for greener pastures.

Not Measuring Up

The Annual Faculty Salary Survey administered by the American Association of University Professors ranked UNC 29th out of 86 public and private research institutions whose salaries it surveyed during the 2000-01 academic year.

That ranking places UNC behind the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and the University of California-Los Angeles -- widely considered to be its four closest peer institutions.

UNC professors earned an average salary of $100,900 last year -- a salary figure that places UNC eight slots behind its nearest public competitor, the University of Michigan, where professors earn an average of $105,200 a year.

Lynn Williford, UNC institutional research director, who is in charge of compiling information about faculty salaries, said salary hikes in previous years have slightly reduced the size of the salary gap in the short term.

But she said such increases have not kept up with the increases offered by peer institutions in the long run, meaning UNC continues to remain consistently behind its peers.

Bridging the Gap

Provost Robert Shelton said Task Force on Tuition members will consider the effects of four different scenarios -- no tuition increase or increases of $200, $400 or $600 per year for the next five years -- during today's meeting.

Shelton said he does not know which of the scenarios the tuition task force will decide to adopt but expects committee members to stick to the North Carolina tradition of low tuition at public universities.

"Nobody on the committee expects to solve all of the financial needs with campus-based tuition increases," he said. "There's not a lot of sentiment for going to a high-tuition state."

But Shelton said increasing faculty salaries is necessary to retain and recruit faculty. Last year alone, he said, faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences received 40 to 50 written job offers from other universities.

"We were able to fight most of them off," he said. "The way you fight them off is with salary."

Department of Psychology Chairman Peter Ornstein said his department has lost four faculty members to other universities during the last three years, including one to the University of Colorado-Boulder and another to the University of Maryland-College Park.

"I can say for those two moves, salary was a substantial concern," he said. "It's certainly the case that our salaries are in dramatic need of adjustment."

But Ornstein added that salaries are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recruiting and retaining faculty members.

He said peer tuition often offer more financial support for faculty research and graduate assistants than UNC.

Faculty Council Chairwoman Sue Estroff said total faculty compensation -- the amount faculty members receive from both salaries and benefits -- should also be examined.

UNC lags behind all four of its closest public competitors in this category. The American Association of University Professors survey ranked UNC 38th out of 84 research institutions nationwide with professors receiving an average of $117,900 in salary and benefits during the 2000-01 academic year.

"How can you be the best public university in the nation when you're 38th?" Estroff said. "After a while it's hard to love a place that doesn't nourish you, and in turn it makes it less possible for faculty to nourish students."

While Shelton agreed that total faculty compensation is not competitive, he said increased benefits would not be included in pending faculty salary discussions because state officials -- not the University -- dictate the amount of money spent on employee benefits such as retirement.

Shelton said, "The best way you can help that is to put people's salaries up."

More Than Money<p> But UNC's Equal Opportunity Officer Robert Cannon, who has performed an analysis of faculty exit questionnaires for the last 15 years, said non-compensation-related factors play a significant role in whether a faculty member decides to remain at the University.

"While salary is a factor and may, in fact, be the major factor, it is not the only factor," he said. "If you listen to the discussion, it seems if you had more money you would stay -- that's just not true."

A UNC analysis of 32 faculty exit questionnaires completed from Sept. 1, 1999, to Aug. 31, 2000, revealed that an all-around attractive offer from another university was the most prevalent reason why a permanent faculty member decided to leave UNC.

A noncompetitive salary was the second most prevalent reason faculty members reported for leaving the University. A change in career direction came in third, and a lack of congeniality within the department or University ranked fourth.

Others argue that it is misleading to equate faculty salaries with institutional quality.

Jon Sanders, a researcher at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said studies like the one performed by the American Association of University Professors omit important factors -- such as cost of living and quality of life -- that influence a faculty member's choice to work at a particular university.

A Pope Center study of 131 public and private universities ranked UNC high among its public peers in terms of quality-of-life for faculty and cost of living.

The University also ranked ninth among the 131 institutions in the survey in the amount of faculty compensation increases that had occurred between 1992 and 2001. According to the study, UNC professors received pay hikes of 48 percent during that time period.

"It may not be at the top," Sanders said of UNC's placement in the salary rankings. "But it is competitive."

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