Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 46: High Salary Increases Lead To Other Problems at Community Colleges

Even as many North Carolina colleges and universities are asking for more money to raise faculty salaries, several community colleges say they need less money for faculty pay, but more money for other “needs.”
Representatives from Caldwell, Isothermal and Southwestern Community Colleges met with members of the Finance and Capital Needs Committee of the State Board of Community Colleges via teleconference on Thursday to discuss their problems and the possibility of transferring money designated for faculty salaries to fund other projects.

Ironically, additional funding approved during the last session of the General Assembly created what many community college leaders described as a funding shortage. While the legislature was generous this year in terms of the amount of money given to community colleges, there are now more stipulations on how the money can be spent, explained Kennon Briggs, Vice President of Business and Finance for the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). A special provision in the appropriations bill stipulates that community colleges cannot transfer more than two percent of monies designated for faculty salaries to meet other university needs. In many cases, faculty salary increases exceed required salary increases. And there is a shortage of money for other needs, according to some community college leaders. Thus, a two percent transfer is not enough.

“We think [faculty salaries] are very competitive,” said Dr. Cecil Gross of Southwestern Community Colleges, referring to this year’s 6.7 faculty salary increase. Southwestern wants to transfer money designated for additional salary increases to buy new equipment for instructional support, technology, and improvements to continuing education programs .

“Without these items… we would be greatly incapacitated in our ability to utilize new facilities,” said Dr. Willard Lewis, President of Isothermal Community College.

Isothermal Community College increased average faculty salaries this year by 10.6 percent, staff salaries by 5 percent, and part-time faculty salaries by 25 percent. The salary increases are good, said Lewis, but can be expended in other ways that will benefit the institution.

We have “done all we can to keep from transferring money from salaries,” said Dr. Lewis Redd, President of Craven Community College. But Redd complained there was not enough money to operate the school’s off-campus center. Meanwhile, the faculty salary increases given at Craven this past year — eight percent was the lowest and 12 percent was the highest — far exceed the required 5 percent increase.
Caldwell Community College also wants to exceed the two percent transfer in order to meet additional cost required to operate its off-site campus.

Fifteen colleges have indicated a need to transfer funds in excess of two percent. Eight of those are currently seeking authority for transfers.

No request for transfers exceeding two percent are unjustified, said Briggs. Some committee members, however, questioned the need for the transfers.
“I am not totally convinced that the money our there is being totally and completely wisely spent,” said committee member Hugh Bryant.

The committee approved all of the transfers on Tuesday. Briggs said that the State Board of Community Colleges would take up the issue in January.