Choosing Greatness

"The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point isn't alone in facing faculty turnover due to low salaries, but it may be among the most severe cases." Inside Higher Ed, July 10, 2013

Supporting faculty and staff

Since its founding in 1894, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has been a source of pride for Central and Northern Wisconsin.

An early champion of sustainability and health, a promoter of arts and culture and a driver of economic prosperity, UW-Stevens Point has earned its distinction as one of the nation’s outstanding regional universities.

Greatness, however, cannot be built and then abandoned. Maintaining greatness requires continual care and investment.

At the core of the UW-Stevens Point mission is the relationship between faculty and the students. These relationships suffer when faculty leave the university and the institution struggles to replace them. The integrity of the university is jeopardized when the very core of its existence is threatened.

UW-Stevens Point provides an excellent education for a fair and reasonable price. A key factor in accomplishing that goal is recruiting and retaining excellent faculty and staff.

Faculty retention and recruitment

Through the discovery, dissemination and application of knowledge, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point fosters intellectual growth, provides a broad-based education, models community engagement and prepares students for success in a diverse and sustainable world.
"The salaries are way off, but there's also satisfaction in this job," said [Devinder] Sandhu, who teaches plant biology, genetics and crop improvement. "It is so easy for them [students] to go into graduate school if they had training in my lab." Stevens Point Journal, December 14, 2013

Widening salary gap

Why is UW-Stevens Point losing faculty members and finding it challenging to hire replacements? One answer is found in comparing salaries.

In 2013, out of 349 UW-Stevens Point faculty members, nearly 89 percent were paid less than the national average by discipline and rank. A year before, 87 percent of the 338 faculty members were paid less than the national average by discipline and rank.

When merit and years of service are added to the equation, 94.3 percent of UW-Stevens Point faculty members are paid less than the national average.

The discrepancy between average salaries and UW-Stevens Point salaries is significant. More than 45 percent of faculty are paid at least $10,000 a year below the national average. Approximately 12 percent are paid more than $20,000 a year less than the national average.

UW-Stevens Point improved efficiencies, increased student retention and, where necessary, reduced or eliminated existing programming in order to pump more than $1 million into faculty and staff salaries since the 2011 academic year. Despite our efforts, the percentage of faculty members earning less than the national average has increased, not decreased (see figure 1).

According to the American Association of University Professors 2013-14 annual report on the economic status of the profession, full-time faculty across the nation had an average salary increase of 2.2 percent. Faculty who stayed at the same university saw average increases of 3.4 percent. The yearly salary increases for University of Wisconsin System faculty and staff were only one percent.

UW-Stevens Point simply cannot keep up with the salaries of peer institutions without increased state support.

Figure 1

Faculty salary distribution

Salary distribution at UW-Stevens Point
by discipline and rank only

Salary gap at UW-Stevens Point when merit and years of services are added

Source: College and University Professional Association 2011-12 Salary Survey

Table 1

Cost of living composite index
NYC 225.3
San Francisco 163.3
Chicago 117.1
Denver 104.5
Milwaukee 100.8
Detroit 100.5
Central Wisconsin 98.6
San Antonio 97.0
Atlanta 96.9
Spokane 96.2
Cincinnati 95.2
Eau Claire 93.0
Tampa 91.9
Dallas 91.5
Oklahoma City 91.0
Des Moines 90.2
St. Louis 89.6
Omaha 88.5
Source: Council for Community and Economic Research 2012

Living in Central Wisconsin

Stevens Point's numerous cultural and recreational activities, multiple educational opportunities and hospitable atmosphere are all attractive to prospective candidates. With accolades such as "Best Water," "Top Ten Dream Towns" and "Sixth Best City for Families," Stevens Point is committed to providing a livable, workable and enjoyable way of life.

We sometimes hear the argument that salaries in Central Wisconsin can be lower because the cost of living is less. Unfortunately, that claim is based on a false assumption. Cities from Spokane, Wash. to Atlanta, Ga., from Tampa Fla. to Des Moines, Iowa, all have lower costs of living than Central Wisconsin (see table 1).

Earning a living wage

In spring 2013, Chancellor Bernie Patterson appointed a seven-member Living Wage Task Force to prepare a report regarding salaries for hourly or classified employees, particularly employees working in blue collar, security and technical positions.

After comparing salaries within the University of Wisconsin System and comparable private and public institutions, the task force found the starting wages paid at UW-Stevens Point were generally well below market comparison wages for jobs with similar duties and requiring the same skills.

On average, starting market wages in the public sector were 41.3 percent higher, and when combining both the public and private sector, 38.6 percent higher than the starting salaries at UW-Stevens Point.

While the state sets the starting salaries of classified employees, the task force recommended, and the university instituted, a process to raise the lowest salaries at UW-Stevens Point. The university increased the wages of 60 employees in good standing at a cost of nearly $78,000. In addition, the university continues to push for greater flexibility from the state in wage setting to be able to attract and retain classified staff.

Ben Hansen "I'm at one of the best natural resources colleges in the world with the best professors who knew what they were talking about and kept me interested..." Ben Hansen, wildlife major and 2013 national collegiate Timbersports champion

Academic Staff Living Wage Improvements

Recruiting and retention

Low salaries continue to be a major factor in the university's ability to recruit employees. In 2013, only 66 percent of faculty positions were accepted by the first-choice candidate. When asked why they rejected offers, more than 30 percent of the candidates for faculty and academic staff positions responded the salary offer was matched or exceeded by another institution.

While UW-Stevens Point is making progress in faculty and staff recruitment (see figure 2), employment searches are time consuming and costly to the university. In addition, failed searches cause significant damage to morale, which in turn impacts retention.

Investing in the future

UW-Stevens Point would need an additional $3.5 million in our annual budget to bring faculty salaries in line with comparable institutions.

Only with renewed investment from the state can UW-Stevens Point recruit and retain the best faculty and staff. We have a choice to keep or dismantle greatness. We choose greatness, and we ask for your support.

Figure 2

Faculty hiring summary

Faculty offer/rejections of positions 2012

Faculty offer/rejections of positions 2013

Reasons faculty and academic staff candidates declined offers 2012-13

"It's infinitely harder to rebuild greatness once it's been dismantled."
Jonathan R. Cole, professor and former provost at Columbia University, The Chronicle of Higher Education,
December 12, 2011