Leaders of several of Kansas' public universities said Wednesday that their staffs are getting raided because of the lack of state pay raises.
“A number of us have fought battles over the past two years to keep faculty,” said Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
“The harm is not uniform. You lose the most outstanding, competitive faculty,” Gray-Little said at a meeting of the Council of Presidents.
Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz said he understands when a faculty member leaves to take a position at a top school in that faculty member’s field. But Schulz said he is concerned because he is seeing faculty members going to similar or lessor institutions for salaries that K-State can't offer.
He also said the flat salaries have resulted in some faculty leaving who are in mid-career and at the top of their productivity.
“Those are the ones that really hurt,” he said.
Following a historic drop in tax revenue over the past two years, state funding to higher education has been cut by $100 million or 12 percent.
At KU and some of the other institutions, that has meant no pay raises for faculty and staff for two years.
The Kansas Board of Regents has requested the Legislature approve a $50 million funding increase for higher education for the next school year.
Emporia State University President Michael Lane said, “We are not asking for the world. Just to give some people a thank you for what they've been doing the last three years.”
Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott said he has been losing some faculty to the private sector but that trend is starting to reverse because of the shaky economy.
But presidents at Wichita State University and Fort Hays State University said they haven't seen any noticeable loss of faculty due to the salary constraints.
Ed Hammond, the president of Fort Hays State University, said he believes the problem hasn’t hit his campus because the university is growing rapidly, through its virtual college and establishment of a program in China.
“When you are growing, more people are willing to stay because they see opportunity,” Hammond said. Also, Fort Hays State offers tuition reimbursement to the children of faculty and staff.
Hammond and Gray-Little also noted that competition for faculty at research universities, such as KU, is more aggressive, especially with professors who have huge grants to fund research.
Some of the universities' leaders said the lack of pay increases has caused “compression.” That is where new employees are hired at the same or higher level than what longtime employees are making. The higher level is driven by the market, while the veteran employees’ salaries are held down because of budget constraints.
That causes some staff to feel the only way they can make more money is to leave for another school, they said.
Gray-Little, who is chair of the Council of Presidents, said she would gather more exact information from the other schools on salary issues and departing staff and present that data to the Kansas Board of Regents and other policymakers.
She said that while she understands the state’s fiscal situation is difficult, she wants to raise the visibility of the issue of salaries and perhaps explore alternative funding sources to provide pay increases.
Gray-Little said she has no specifics yet, but noted that some schools have been able to provide small salary bumps by re-allocating funds or dedicating a portion of tuition revenue to an increase.