Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 37: Task Force Calls for Tuition Hike to Boost Professors’ Pay

Students, state legislators and private donors may soon be asked to help raise faculty salaries at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, despite evidence that UNC-CH’s faculty salaries there are among the highest in the nation.

On Monday, a faculty salary task force presented a plan for boosting the pay of professors at the state’s flagship campus. The plan included raising the tuition of both in-state and out-of-state students over the next several years, asking the state for annual faculty salary increases of at least 5 percent over the next five years (although in light of Hurricane Floyd, the professors plan to ask the state for only a 3 percent raise this year), and asking private fund-raisers to bring in an additional $20 million each year for the next four years. The $20 million each year would generate an additional $1 million for endowed professorships.

Overall, the plan would boost the average salaries of full UNC professors by $28,000. Overall, faculty salaries would increase by $45,444,537. The proposal must first be approved by the UNC-CH Board of Trustees on Oct. 28. It must then gain approval by the UNC system administrators and the UNC Board of Governors, which would make a report to the N.C. General Assembly in December.

UNC-CH officials have long argued that the compensation of professors at UNC-CH is too low for the university to compete with higher-paying peer institutions for top talent or to keep the talent already on campus. But it has so far not provided any proof of that assertion, said Jon Sanders, the director of publications at the Pope Center who has published studies comparing faculty salaries.

“Every year it’s the same song and dance from Chapel Hill,” said Sanders. “The pay is too low, they’re going to lose distinguished faculty, and the school is going to suffer in prestige. They hint at the danger to the state itself if this situation persists, an obvious non sequitur. You wonder whether the real issue motivating Chapel Hill is this supposed loss of prestige in the provincial circle of academe -— that and the prospect of everybody receiving an additional $28,000.”

Sanders said that when adjusting the compensation of UNC professors for the cost of living at each university, UNC-CH ranks 27th overall and 12th among public Research I universities.

“Granting UNC-CH’s assumptions that the only thing that motivates professors is money, and that professors will go where they will be paid the most,” Sanders argued, “then even if UNC-CH were losing professors to higher-paying schools, it has a wealth of lower-paying schools to prey upon for replacements.”

Lost in this issue of faculty compensation at UNC-CH is the issue of education delivery, Sanders said. “How many classes per year do these exiting distinguished scholars normally teach? How many classes will their replacements teach? Will the replacements teach more?” Sanders asked. “On the state’s dollar, getting the job done should be primary. Giving the university more prestige should never supersede teaching the students.”

IN OTHER NEWS: The latest attempt at passage of the $3 university bond proposal (which failed to pass the last session of the General Assembly) includes tying the UNC bonds to the needs of eastern North Carolina businesses hurt by Hurricane Floyd. The proposal, which was unveiled by former Gov. and UNC-Board of Governors emeritus member James Holshouser at a recent BOG meeting, would allow eastern North Carolina businesses to build UNC system projects in an effort to stimulate the regions‘ economy. Mr. Holshouser could not be reached for clarification about the program.