Tight budgets could send university faculty elsewhere

Posted October 8, 2010 5:34 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2010 6:57 p.m. EDT

— The prospect of another year of budget cuts is raising concern on University of North Carolina campuses about their ability to retain top faculty members.

Despite budget shortfalls nationally, some state universities outside North Carolina continue to offer raises for the best administrators and professors. As a result, the salaries in the UNC system now lag behind those of many peer institutions, UNC President Erskine Bowles said Friday.

"It puts you in a tough competitive position, the longer you have to stay in a freeze," Bowles told the UNC Board of Governors. "I expect we'll lose some additional leaders because of it. It's the price you pay in this kind of difficult time."

The board is researching ways to raise pay for administrators and professors to remain competitive, but university system leaders say it won't happen until the state budget picture improves.

Fiscal analysts project a $3 billion state deficit for fiscal 2011-12, which starts next July. Bowles has already asked chancellors to begin drawing up a list of possible cuts next year to equal 10 percent of their annual budget.

"We're not fools. We understand the predicament that the state's in right now, and so we're not rushing forward with any proposals (for pay raises)," said Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the Board of Governors.

Gage said better pay needs to at least be on the table for better days. Until then, keeping top college educators won't be easy.

"We're stuck, but we're trying to anticipate what we need to do," she said.

The Board of Governors is looking over executive salary comparisons, including information from The Chronicle of Higher Education.