FAYETTEVILLE (March 4, 2016) – With North Carolina’s public universities lagging their peers in faculty compensation, the UNC Board of Governors has decided to make competitive pay a top priority in the upcoming legislative session.
“Our chancellors have to be able to recruit and retain the very best in the country,” said Harry Smith, chairman of the board’s Budget & Finance Committee. “The competition level has ramped up so much.”
When the NC General Assembly reconvenes next month, board members and President Margaret Spellings will make the case for a $58 million increase in compensation that would let campus leaders reward top talent and give a long‐awaited raise to many faculty and staff.
Though state leaders like to say the UNC System is the best public university system in the country, a study released this week found that average faculty salaries at 11 out of 16 state universities fall below the 50th percentile when compared with their peer institutions.
The study found it would take a raise of roughly 6% at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University, the system’s flagship institutions, just to reach the modest goal of reaching the 50th percentile. Yet perhaps out of pragmatism, the system is preparing to ask state legislators for a 2% raise for faculty.
The data make the case for a raise of substantially more than 2% – especially when other institutions can be expected to continue raising faculty pay.
Legislators have granted university faculty one raise in seven years.
Meanwhile, 76% of the faculty members across the system who received offers from other institutions from 2012-14 accepted those offers and left, often taking millions in grant dollars with them.
This year faculty received a $750 bonus, which did nothing to increase base pay.
University leaders will also ask legislators for $3 million to bolster the system’s Faculty Recruitment and Retention Fund, which has been depleted as campuses worked to fend off poaching of nationally‐recognized teachers and researchers.
“[Faculty] need to have the perception that this system understands what they do, and is committed to it,” said Smith.
Unfortunately, the sentiment was not unanimous. Board member Marty Kotis of Greensboro voiced skepticism about seeking additional taxpayer dollars for salaries, arguing that campuses can identify other funds to boost pay.
“We’ve got to be willing to say no, and be willing to cut some of this government bloat,” Kotis said. “I’d like to see a much smaller budget request.”
Several chancellors spoke later about difficulties keeping high‐performing professors when other universities are making strategic investments and working hard to recruit.
Junius Gonzales, the system’s vice president for academic affairs, said that other universities know which states have fallen behind in pay, and they “go shopping” in those targeted areas.
Years of stagnant state funding have left North Carolina’s public universities vulnerable. We need to reward the folks who teach our kids – at every level. If we don’t, we will continue to lose our state’s best teachers and researchers.