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Tuesday November 29th

UNC system faculty retention rates suffer due to decrease in funds

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A $10-million fund set in place to protect high-profile faculty in the UNC system has dwindled to nearly nothing.

The system’s Board of Governors, along with administrators from some of the 17 UNC-system schools, discussed the growing problem of falling faculty retention rates at the board’s Sept. 8 meeting.

The money from the system’s recruitment and retention fund is used to make counteroffers for UNC-system professors who have been approached by outside universities, said Charlie Perusse, vice president for finance for the system.

The system needs to ask the N.C. General Assembly for more money for the fund, he said.

Since 2006, the fund has shrunk from $10 million to between $34,000 and $58,000, said Phil Dixon, chairman of the board’s personnel and tenure committee.

“That’s not enough money to hold anyone,” he said. “Everyone is recognizing that we’re losing some good people.”

The UNC system retained only 37 percent of faculty who received job offers elsewhere last year, he said.

The fund is also available to recruit top faculty from other schools, and Dixon said some board members want to try and poach star professors from other universities to better the UNC system’s quality of education.

System schools must keep their top professors to maintain that high quality, he said.

Dixon said the solution is often not just to match a counteroffer but to increase professors’ salaries.

Bruce Carney, UNC-CH’s executive vice chancellor and provost, said the University has dealt with varying retention rates throughout the years.

“When times are bad and budgets are thin, there are more cases of retention fights,” he said.

“Historically, we’ve been able to hold onto two-thirds of people, but in the last few years, the number has dropped to 50 percent.”

Carney said private universities are usually the top competitors, along with some public schools.

“It tends to be the top-tier schools,” he said.

Last year, UNC retained only 32 of 110 faculty members with counteroffers, according to a report Carney compiled. The University also lacked funds to present a reasonable counteroffer 13 times.

The professors lost are typically among the top 3 percent of the University’s faculty, according to the report.

“They’re extremely productive and very hard to replace, even if we have the resources to do so,” Carney wrote in the report.

Other universities are struggling with the same problems.

East Carolina University is retaining only 24 percent of faculty members, Dixon said.

And Betsy Brown, vice provost for faculty affairs at N.C. State University, said the school is also vulnerable to outside offers.

Perusse said N.C. State has taken the most money from the fund — about $2 million. UNC has taken $1.7 million.

Brown said N.C. State is about 75 percent successful in retaining faculty through counteroffers.

“(The fund) has been a tremendous asset to us,” she said.

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