The financially strapped state legislature has given a small boost to a nearly depleted faculty retention fund — but some administrators say it’s still not enough to keep top faculty.
The fund, which was created in 2006 to help prevent professors from accepting higher bids from other colleges, had shrunk from a high of $10 million to between $34,000 to $58,000 — which in some cases is not enough to retain even one faculty member.
But the legislature awarded $3 million to the feeble fund in July, a $1 million increase from last year.
UNC-CH lost 35 professors in 2011-12 due to competing offers from private universities such as Duke University and Vanderbilt University, said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney. That number is less than half of the number lost in the previous year.
“The retention fund is a huge help to us,” he said.
All UNC-system employees will also receive a 1.2 percent salary increase — the first in four years.
To incentivize certain faculty members to stay, Carney said UNC-CH will supplement the systemwide salary increase with $2.5 million generated from this year’s tuition increase of 13.5 percent.
“Deans are going to have to decide how they want to allocate money and who they want to retain and target,” Carney said.
The legislature’s contribution to the fund has been decreasing — in 2006, $5 million was allocated toward faculty retention. The contribution decreased to $2 million by 2009-10.
Joni Worthington, vice president for communications for the system, said in an email that 300 professors in the system have been retained using the fund since its inception.
Marilyn Sheerer, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at East Carolina University, said faculty retention is a problem in every academic program.
And she said the increases to the fund aren’t enough.
“We need a much larger fund, maybe $15 or $20 million,” she said.
She said ECU’s business school has lost 50 percent of its faculty. One economics teacher who left was offered $60,000 more in pay from the University of North Texas, she said.
Worthington said the system’s Board of Governors will request additional state money for the fund in the fall.
And UNC-Wilmington spokeswoman Dana Fischetti said the salary increase is not large enough to make up for the four years UNC-system faculty did not receive raises.
N.C. Sen. Peter Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, co-chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, said faculty retention is necessary for universities to maintain their standards.
“The best professors that bring you national recognition are the professors you want to retain,” he said.
Universities must prioritize faculty retention, so schools might have to increase class sizes and consolidate majors to offset the cost of salary increases, Brunstetter said.
The $3 million appropriation for the fund had bipartisan support, he said.
“These are tight times in North Carolina, but faculty retention will continue to be an ongoing priority,” he said.
Both Brunstetter and Carney said the state’s economic conditions affect faculty retention.
“How well this campus and others will retain faculty will depend on the economy,” Carney said.
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