U should use faculty salaries to its advantage

The average salary for full-time faculty at the U rose 2.5 percent last year, coming up short of covering the 3.5 percent inflation rate.

Although this trend was reflected across the nation according to a new report from the American Association of University Professors, it is important that the U ensures the highest quality of education for its students by taking all necessary measures to acquire top-notch faculty and staff. And, for the most part, that means paying them accordingly.

U professors earn slightly less than the national average, falling in the 94th percentile range, while U assistant professors are getting 96.5 percent of the norm. To be fair, that difference is largely resolved by a sound benefits package that is roughly equivalent to an extra three to four percent in the standings.

Nonetheless, that the U is so close to meeting the mean is all the more reason to get over the hump, perhaps even into “above average” territory.

And even if the difference between the inflation and pay rates is so marginal as to be inconsequential, the U ought to heed the perceptions of potential faculty members who might otherwise have been interested in working at the U had they not heard news of falling salaries. If the disparity is so meager, as the administration contends, why not just make that perception disappear? It may be worth the cost if it helps achieve the goal of continuing to field a competitive faculty at the U.

The state of Utah took a step in the right direction recently, passing a 3.5 percent salary increase for all public college employees at the 2005 legislative session. Nonetheless, the Utah System of Higher Education lists the pay gap at the U at almost $9,000 behind the national average per employee.

Still, regardless of future minor increases or decreases in pay rates, the U will continue to suffer difficulties competing with professional firms and private schools for the services of professors in lucrative fields such as law and business. No amount of incentive is likely to change those circumstances anytime soon.

As for the welfare of the professors themselves, their average salary of $97,900 seems adequate for basic sustenance.

We just have to take the necessary steps to keep them here.