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Presidents Council 2004 Report to SBOE


JANUARY 27, 2004

For the last few months, I have had the opportunity to join with my fellow presidents on a monthly basis to discuss mutual challenges that confront us on our campuses. Our focus has been on the budget, on state aid, on student fees — all of which relate to the number one concern that we have about Idaho higher education-our ability to attract and retain the best faculty and staff. On behalf of the Presidents’ Council, today I report on our collective concerns, share examples from our campuses, and ask you as our Trustees and as the constitutional authority for higher education to provide leadership and advocacy in this area of utmost importance to the future of Idaho higher education and the students we serve.

I know that each of you is acutely aware of the importance of having talented faculty and staff. Similarly, the Presidents’ council well understands how difficult it has been to adequately fund higher education while the state was experiencing lagging revenues due to a national recession. Nonetheless, I offer the following examples to help personalize the challenge we face as it is personalized for us on a daily basis.

Allow me to start with my own institution. The overall turnover rate at Boise State including faculty, professional staff, and classified employees was just over 20% in 2003. It was over 17% in 2002 — 19% in 2001.

We conduct exit surveys of our departing employees, and, overall, 62% of the employees – faculty, professional staff, and classified – left because of better salary and job opportunities. In terms of faculty pay, for FY03 Boise State’s average faculty salary ranks 12.48% below the national average. We expect to be about 15% behind for FY04. Ten years ago, we were 4.8% below the average, so you can see that the problem is getting more critical every year.

At North Idaho College, a recent salary study conducted by a private consulting firm found that NIC faculty members were paid 15% below the prevailing wage of competitor schools. Additionally, the study found that in 49% of the non-faculty positions, NIC was ranked as being a “non-competitive employer” when compared to both public and private sector institutions. In the past year, 61% of those employees leaving NIC cited inadequate compensation as one of the reasons they were leaving.

The Mountain States Association of Community Colleges recently produced a salary survey for the 2003-04 academic years. That organization included Eastern Idaho Technical College in its ranking of 44 schools. The average salary in the survey was $45,016. EITC’s average salary was $36,923. This ranks EITC as number 43 out of the 44 colleges in the survey.

At the University of Idaho, the salaries are both a retention issue and a recruiting problem for new faculty hiring. At the Assistant Professor rank, U of I salaries are 88% that of other universities in its Doctoral classification. That 12% deficit grows to 14% below the average at the Associate Professor level. Then, at the full Professor level, the gap widens to the point that UI’s salaries are a full 24% behind similar institutions.

The practical implications of this problem from a faculty standpoint are a proverbial “brain drain” of talented faculty members who are leaving us. And, as I mentioned, we also encounter recruiting problems when we seek to replace faculty or search for new positions.

At Lewis Clark State College, a husband and wife who both taught in the Business faculty left for another public university in West Virginia for 45% and 50% salary increases respectively and, both received smaller teaching loads in their new posts than they had at LCSC.

LCSC’s Information Technology director left for an identical position at Central Washington University for a 46% salary increase.

At Idaho State University, faculty members who have passed their entry-level period and who have become very valuable are realizing their value and are using it to leave. The following are just a sample of losses in 2003 alone:

  • a 4-year pharmacy faculty member left for Pennsylvania and a 50% salary increase.
  • an 11-year pharmacy faculty member left for Texas to get a $28,000 increase and a 20% reduced teaching load.
  • a 3-year English faculty member left for Utah for a moderate increase, but a significantly lower teaching load.
  • a 1-year Geosciences faculty member left for Texas for a 25% increase in salary, $200,000 to start a research lab, and a lower teaching load.
  • a 12-year Biology faculty member left for Arizona for 30% salary increase.

There are plenty of these examples at each of our institutions, but these are just the ones that left the latest dent in our ability to offer our students the best instruction in the classroom. What is also of concern to us are those that stay behind, disheartened by the state’s inability to adjust their salaries even to keep up with inflation.

Our problems keeping and recruiting faculty and staff are compounded by the fact that other states are moving forward with salary increases. In fact, the March/April 2003 issue of Academe reported the average salary growth in higher education nationwide in the 2001-02 academic year was 7% — 3% in the 2002-03 academic year. Regrettably, in Idaho, for both years as you know, the amount was zero. Idaho was lagging in this competitive arena before the recent budget problems, and now has lost more ground during these trying times.

The College of Southern Idaho offers an excellent, tangible example of this impact. In just one year, faculty salaries at CSI fell a full $1,000 per person below institutions in Utah because Utah gave raises last year. You can imagine how multiple years without steady increases result in our salaries gradually falling farther and farther behind. This, of course, makes our college and universities’ most accomplished senior faculty susceptible to recruitment by other institutions. This is increasingly true in high demand fields like Engineering, Networking and Information Systems, and Nursing, where our faculty salaries lag behind the national averages by even wider margins. We are concerned that Idaho’s higher-education system is in danger of becoming a “farm team” for institutions that seek to recruit our faculty.

The situation with professional staff is similar and is especially troubling within the technology field. We are finding that we can hire them for a time, train them to be good at what they do, but then they leave for greener pastures.

In addition to salary levels affecting morale on campus, we must also factor in health care concerns. We all recognize that the cost of health care is a pervasive private and public sector problem. From small employers to large employers such as our universities, health care costs are growing at an alarming rate.

The current approach to the health care cost crisis is either cutting benefits or requiring employees to share a heavier burden. We are seeing our deductibles increase to compensate for rising costs, thereby increasing total out-of-pocket costs for our employees.

When you couple the lack of salary increases for two years with increases in health care costs paid by employees, the real monetary impact is troublesome and is contributing to the growing sense of disillusionment among our faculty and staff.

There are significant administrative costs associated with this problem as well. It is costly to recruit and replace faculty and staff when you add up the advertising, travel, moving and training expenses, among others.

Our faculty and staffs are looking for some sign that things are going to get better. Certainly, the good news that the economy is improving has lifted their spirits a bit. But what has really caught their attention is the Governor’s budget recommendation of a 2% salary increase for all state employees and his proposal to cover the increased health care costs in the next fiscal year. We are hopeful that these remain the highest priority throughout this legislative session and that it be enacted into law.

We ask for your support of the Governor’s recommendation. This will help make it possible for our salaries and benefits to attract and retain faculty and staff who are among the best in their field, thus ensuring the best educational opportunities possible for students in Idaho higher education. Thank you.