Executive Vice Provost Ron Strauss said that UNC faculty salaries haven’t kept up with the cost of living — which has contributed to trouble retaining faculty in some cases.
While some faculty did receive a raise in 2014-15 for the first time in years, he said, it was not as high as some people perceive. The N.C. General Assembly granted $5 million in state funds for UNC-system salary increases, but it wasn’t an across-the-board raise.
Barnshaw said people believe growth in faculty salaries drive increases in tuition because they mistakenly believe institutional aspects of campus are already paid for.
Strauss said that although a portion of faculty salaries comes from student tuition, he would agree with the report that they are not the sole cause of tuition hikes.
“I think the biggest single thing that has changed is a reduction in state support for higher education,” Strauss said.
Barnshaw said as a result of the decline of state appropriations, public universities like UNC are forced to find their sources of revenue elsewhere, which often comes in the form of tuition hikes.
But Jenna Robinson, president of the right-leaning Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said the AAUP report caught the effects of the recession by studying the last five years of state appropriations to public universities. This support has actually been steady over the last 20 years, she said.
She said that while faculty salaries aren’t the biggest factor causing rising student tuition, faculty workloads are part of it.
“The biggest part of the cost problem has been the absolute explosion of non-instructional employees at universities,” Robinson said.
She said the number of administrative employees nationwide more than doubled from 1987 to 2011, according to the American Institutes for Research and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
At UNC, there has been a more than 300 percent increase in full-time professional staff over that period.
Furthermore, if faculty workloads weren’t so low, universities could increase their efficiency and decrease tuition costs, Robinson said.
But Strauss said pitting students and faculty against one another doesn’t help the situation.
“The faculty are as committed to accessible, affordable higher education as are students, and so part of what brings them here to Carolina is the belief in the value of an accessible higher education — and that means affordable tuition.”