UNC Leaders, Legislators Discuss Faculty Salary Increases

University of North Carolina officials on Monday pressed legislators for increased faculty salary pay, saying that UNC campuses would suffer significant losses of their best faculty if pay and benefits aren’t improved soon.

“We are in a fiercely competitive business,” UNC-Charlotte Chancellor James Woodward told members of the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee. Dr. Gretchen Bataille, UNC’s senior vice president for academic affairs, said that the pay gap between faculty members who hold advanced degrees and their counterparts who work in the for-profit sector was 14 percent in 1985 and has jumped to 24 percent today. UNC institutions would need an additional $28.5 million just to close the pay gap between themselves and other public universities, she said.

No one with an opposing viewpoint had been scheduled to speak to the commission, so commission members heard only UNC’s side of the story. George Leef, director of the John Locke Foundation’s Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said that was unfortunate because there are many different ways to look at the faculty pay issue.

“University presidents frequently raise the cry that they must have a large across-the-board salary increase when all that is really needed are moderate increases in a few fields in order to hire and retain good faculty members,” Leef said.

Jeffrey Davies, UNC’s vice president for finance, told committee members that five campuses were dealing with immediate faculty pay needs by raising tuition at the schools in which they most needed to retain or attract faculty. For example, the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill raised tuition last year so it could raise faculty pay. But Davies said this approach is limited.

“Faulty salary increases cannot be sustained through tuition increases unless we want to deviate from that long-standing tradition of low tuition,” he said. Leef said Davies’ point on tuition was correct, but his solution of raising legislative appropriations was wrong. “Students who intend to go into the high-paying areas where the university has trouble in competing for people ought to be the ones paying to cover the cost of hiring the faculty who will teach them,” Leef said.

Woodward listed several UNC-Charlotte faculty members (by job title, not by name), whom he said left because of low pay. If the pay issue isn’t addressed immediately, he said, the situation will become far worse.

“The quality of service we provide to the citizens of North Carolina depends largely on the quality of our faculty,” he said. “We’ve asked people why they’re leaving. Overwhelmingly, we are being told that they can’t afford to stay. Now, that sounds corny, but that’s what they’re saying. If you will help provide funds so we can provide funds so we can provide competitive salaries, we will continue to attract the kind of people our campuses that you want teaching our young people.”

A 1997 Locke Foundation study of faculty compensation found that UNC-Charlotte ranked 19th out of 57 comparable public universities. A 1999 Pope Center study on faculty compensation placed UNC-Chapel Hill 30th of all Research I institutions and 19th out of public Research I institutions. Both studies found no support for the argument that faculty compensation was causing a critical loss of quality personnel from UNC institutions.

CORRECTION: On August 18, Clarion Call reported that legislation enacted in 1999 enabled universities to carry forward into the next budget year 2.5 percent of their total budget. The legislation was enacted in 1991 and amended in 1999.