As universities across the country continue to recover from the 2008 economic downturn, many administrators are prioritizing investments in faculty recruitment and retention.
And UNC, hampered by years of budget cuts and salary freezes, remains a target for top research universities looking to lure faculty away.
Only a third of University faculty who received outside job offers in 2012-13 chose to stay in Chapel Hill, down significantly from 69 percent the previous year. Forty-six faculty have left, while seven remain undetermined.
The number of outside offers, 76, was not a major change from the previous academic year, and the average retention rate since 2002 is about 57 percent.
But it’s the first time in a decade that UNC lost more faculty than it was able to keep.
“We’re not talking about a massive exodus,” said Ron Strauss, UNC’s executive vice provost and chief international officer. “But other universities are able to offer bigger packages to people that they really want, and consequently they’re more lucrative.”
Only 15 faculty members were considered failed retentions, or people who got a counteroffer from UNC and left anyway.
But campuswide tight finances are limiting UNC’s pool of incentives — most of which come from individual schools’ budgets — to hold onto faculty recruited elsewhere, Strauss said.
“When people get an external offer, it’s more likely to be a serious, solid offer and they’re more likely to accept the offer, even if we try to retain them,” he said.
The N.C. General Assembly has cut close to $500 million in state support for the UNC system since 2011.
The system’s retention fund received a $3 million boost in state funding last year to bring it to about $13 million, but Strauss said the University can only request limited support from the fund for high-priority faculty.
Meanwhile, several of UNC’s peers are employing an increased number of preemptive measures — including salary boosts.
At University of Virginia, faculty have endured a pay freeze since 2008 — but university President Teresa Sullivan successfully lobbied the school’s Board of Visitors earlier this year for across-the-board salary raises in 2013-14.
“Once our peers’ money began to flow again, we knew we would have to be proactive in order to face our competitors,” said Gertrude Fraser, UVa.’s vice provost for faculty retention and recruitment.
The increases will be funded by a combination of state and university funding, Fraser said.
“We understood that to retain and recruit faculty, we needed to pay attention to salary,” she said.
UNC faculty did not receive across-the-board raises in 2013-14, the fourth time in the past five years.
Alfred Franzblau, University of Michigan’s vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, said faculty members have continued to receive annual pay raises throughout the economic recovery, helping the school maintain a steady retention rate and influx of new faculty.
And Jocelyn Milner, director of academic planning and institutional research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said faculty will get a small salary bump this year after several years of pay freezes.
Milner said investing in development programs that support faculty-led initiatives and address equity gaps in salary is another factor keeping faculty on campus.
She said retention has remained upwards of 70 percent during the last three years.
Strauss said as long as UNC’s budget constraints continue, there will be a relatively high volume of outside offers and difficulty retaining faculty. He added that UNC cannot retain everyone who receives an outside offer.
“We value each individual faculty member,” he said. “But we can’t just roll out the red carpet for everyone.”
Still, Franzblau said UNC remains one of Michigan’s top competitors in terms of attracting the best faculty.
And Strauss said some UNC faculty have other reasons to look to other universities besides better pay.
But he said faculty rarely come into his office with complaints about their teaching experience at UNC.
“What they say is, ‘I never expected to have an offer like this, and look what it’s going to do,’” he said.
“I would love to have more money (to retain faculty) — that wouldn’t hurt. But will that end retention problems? No.”
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