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Regents likely to increase faculty salaries 2 to 4 percent

BY LUKE VOELZ | JUNE 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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The state Board of Regents will vote today on a proposed 2 percent to 4 percent increase for University of Iowa faculty and administration salaries.

While some of the faculty who may see these increases said they’re glad to receive additional compensation, some admitted the increase represents a difficult balance between faculty funding and student needs.

“Any increase is useful,” said Lois Geist, the associate dean of faculty in the UI Carver College of Medicine. “It gives faculty the message they are valued. [Balancing with tuition] is always the difficult part, particularly in medical school, where the price tag for student education continues to rise faster than faculty salaries do.”

In fiscal 2011, UI faculty saw an average pay raise of roughly 1 percent.

University officials are seeking to remain competitive with peer institutions, said UI Faculty Senate President Richard Fumerton.

“If you have too many years in which there isn’t merit pay, it does become hard to stay competitive with other universities when it comes to attracting and maintaining faculty,” said the philosophy professor. “It’s in everyone’s interest, especially students, for the UI to have the best faculty it can. I’m sure in an ideal world we wouldn’t have wanted students to be paying large tuitions.”

The predicted salary change factors in merit-based raises and pay adjustments, meaning general pay increases will draw from a smaller funding pool. Fumerton said he believes departments will allocate both funds conservatively because of an economy facing financial strains. At the University of Nebraska, one of theUI’s conference peers, Board of Regents Chairman Robert Whitehouse said officials are looking to approve a 2.5 percent faculty-pay increase at this month’s regents meeting.

Faculty have not received a raise in the last two years.

“What [universities] try to do — and we’re not there yet — is try to stay in the midrange of your peers … for salary and pay increases,” he said. “That’s what you have to do in order to recruit. It’d be nice to stay on top of everything, but that’s not the way it works.”

The Iowa regents face a $38 million decrease in government funding, which Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said is necessary, given the state economy.

“Most people would be very happy with a 2 percent raise, while many would be happy just to keep a job,” he said. “ I would hope that in this time while there are limited resources that we can keep salary increases.”

But Rep. David Jacoby, D-Coralville, said state revenues have been increasing for a year, with the month of May bringing $100 million in the revenue stream — enough to cover greater university funding.

“Right now, revenues in Iowa are so strong that we can both adequately fund universities to cover deserved pay raises and put money into the [state] reserve account,” he said.

Regent Robert Downer said he understands the state’s need to balance expenses without raising taxes, but he also believes higher education can pay the state back over time.

“I don’t know of anything that creates a return on investment that’s anywhere close to higher education in terms of taking a blank sheet of paper and turning it into a Rembrandt,” he said. “I have a great fear that we’re jeopardizing future of country by not doing things necessary to keep [national education] at the forefront.”


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