CHAPEL HILL – Stagnant pay for University faculty and staff remains a major problem in North Carolina, hampering the state’s ability to hire and keep top-tier teachers and researchers.
State lawmakers have offered a single 1.2% raise in the past seven years, even as other states have recruited aggressively to poach talent.
But it’s more than salaries.
Lackluster benefits — especially in retirement and health care — deepen the challenge. University employees face higher premiums, less generous coverage and smaller retirement contributions than their peers at other public universities, according to an analysis presented last week to the UNC Board of Governors.1
That causes real harm to the University’s talent pool, said Matt Brody, the University system’s vice president for human resources.
“When I’m interviewing folks, where they’re really focused is what kind of retirement program do we have and what’s the employer contribution? What am I going to pay out of pocket for healthcare, and what are the premiums?” Brody said. “That’s where the rubber really hits the road.”
It’s a persistent weakness. Especially for those trying to support a family, North Carolina’s health coverage lags far behind the University of Virginia, the University of California and other competitors. Family coverage for a North Carolina instructor costs more than three times similar coverage at Virginia Tech, for instance.2 Premiums, benefits and deductibles for the State Health Plan are set by the Plan’s board, with oversight from the General Assembly.
When total compensation is compared, a professor making a nominal salary of $100,000 at the University of Virginia comes out $10,000 ahead of one making the same salary at UNC-Chapel Hill. The UVA instructor has total compensation of $102,100, while the UNC instructor’s is $92,080.3
“As you can see, that’s real money if you’re someone who’s weighing a potential offer,” Brody said. “This is not nickels and dimes; this could make a real difference.”
While the state’s pension plan stacks up well against other public universities, the defined-contribution retirement plan — a more flexible and popular option for many faculty and staff — is in the bottom third among peer institutions. UNC’s employer contribution has not increased in more than 18 years, which has allowed competitors to outpace the University’s plan.4
Together, the expensive health coverage and meager retirement contributions make UNC job offers less competitive in the national market.
“These are the most critical for us in recruitment and retention, and this is where we’re struggling,” Brody told board members.
A long-awaited study of faculty pay is expected at the Board’s January meeting.
1 “UNC Benefit Competitiveness,” http://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/bog/index.php?mode=browse_premeeting&mid=5628&code=bog.
2 Ibid, Slide 9.
3 Ibid, Slide 19.
4 Ibid, Slides 11-17.