Faculty pay should meet national norm

During last week’s Board of Regents meetings, senior vice president Marvin Marshak reminded regents of a major shortcoming of the University: the relatively low rate at which it pays its faculty members. The administration’s appeal to the board is nothing new. University President Nils Hasselmo has long advocated faculty pay raises and seems determined to secure it before retiring this summer. The president maintains, and studies confirm, that the University’s faculty compensation scale puts it at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the nation’s top research institutions. Finding money to raise salaries won’t be easy, especially since the University will almost certainly get less funding than it wants from the Minnesota Legislature for the next two-year budget. Based on current deliberations at the state Capitol, the University is expected to receive $60 million to $90 million less than its $230 million requested increase. In light of harsh budget realities, the administration — as in most years — will be unable to fully fund every program and initiative. But it’s imperative that the faculty receive a raise during the next biennium. “Without a faculty of the highest caliber, the University and state will not be able to successfully offer competitive programs of teaching, research and outreach that are truly world class,” Marshak stated in a letter to the regents.
Indeed, if the University is to maintain its position as a national leader, it must become more competitive in faculty recruitment. A study by the National Research Council of the nation’s top 30 research institutions places University compensation 28th for full professors. Faculty pay at the University’s Morris campus ranks below the average for comparable schools, as well, according to the report.
While full professors at such public institutions as the University of California–Berkeley and the University of Michigan received mean salaries of about $85,000 last year (the average for top schools including private institutions was about $87,400), those at the University of Minnesota made about $73,000. Of the top institutions in the research council’s rankings, only the University of Wisconsin and the University of Washington offered less.
Raising faculty salaries on each campus toward the mean level of comparable schools will cost about $30 million, according to Marshak’s report. If the Legislature fails to support the proposed increase — and future attempts to maintain competitive salaries — University leaders must boost endowments or identify alternative funding sources.
The University has a lot to offer aspiring academics — a strong and well-funded tradition of research, the urban setting of the Twin Cities, a talented student body. Nonetheless, money is a factor; teachers will move on if they can receive several thousand dollars more elsewhere. To prevent this, this institution must put its might behind the recruitment and retention of talented academics. Millions of dollars are routinely invested to improve the school’s infrastructure. Tuition hikes are generally held to a minimum in an attempt to keep education affordable. Now it’s time to focus on an equally important asset — the teachers that make the school tick.