Education

University of Iowa freezes pay amid state cuts

Most faculty and staff will have to wait for increases until January

(File photo) The dome of the Old Capitol Building on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(File photo) The dome of the Old Capitol Building on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Although a new budget year starts July 1, the University of Iowa announced this week plans to put off pay raises for most faculty and staff until January in light of repeated cuts in state support.

The 6-month freeze goes against what UI President Bruce Harreld has touted as a top priority — increasing faculty compensation in hopes of retaining and attracting top talent. But, in a message from the UI Office of Strategic Communications, officials report that waiting until the new calendar year to approve potential performance and cost-of-living salary raises will give the university time to develop a clearer revenue picture.

Specifically, the university needs more information about tuition revenue from enrollment for the next academic year and about potential state budget cuts that could follow Iowa’s December meeting of its revenue estimating conference.

Lawmakers for the last two years have imposed midterm budget rescissions, which landed especially hard on the Board of Regents — with the state pulling back a total of nearly $21 million from UI, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa in the 2017 budget year and nearly $11 million from UI and ISU in the current 2018 budget year.

In addition to the midyear cuts, the state last year decreased regent general education fund appropriations for 2018 by nearly $10 million — meaning state support for the public universities’ general education funds have dropped more than $40 million since the start of the 2017 budget year.

The Iowa General Assembly has approved an $8.3 million increase for the three universities for the 2019 budget year, which starts July 1. But the Board of Regents hasn’t yet announced how that money will be split. Board spokesman Josh Lehman told The Gazette the topic likely will be on the regents June agenda.

“Whatever the university’s portion,” according to UI strategic communications, “any potential increase will not be enough to offset last year’s rescission.”

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Following the first round of midyear cuts in 2017, Harreld stayed firm in his resolve to improve faculty pay — announcing last June he was allocating nearly $5 million toward compensation bumps aimed at making UI salaries more competitive.

Meanwhile at Iowa State, Interim President Ben Allen last summer announced his school couldn’t afford mandatory raises — a decision administrators said hurt morale. Iowa State in 2017 saw its most faculty resignations in a decade — 44, up from 24 in 2016 — with many saying they were leaving for jobs that paid better.

ISU President Wendy Wintersteen, hired in October, told The Gazette this week that faculty pay is the “most worrisome budget issue that we have in front of us” and she hopes to avoid a repeat of last year’s pay freeze.

In the UI announcement this week, administrators clarified its pay freeze won’t affect UI Health Care or promotional raises. For UIHC, subject to Board of Regents approval, departments will be allowed to give up to an overall 1 percent average increase for all faculty and non-organized professional and scientific staff “to be distributed based on performance and available funding.”

Those increases will become effective July 1 and be reflected in Aug. 1 paychecks. Department chairs and senior health care executives will not receive new year raises, according to UI officials.

Additionally, any staffers covered by collective bargaining agreements — like those health care workers associated with the local Service Employees International Union — will receive the increase promised in their contracts.

The news comes as non-tenure-track faculty have been protesting outside UI President Harreld’s office and home, demanding better pay and benefits and more power and say in decisions involving shared governance.

The university has offered to form a committee to discuss their issues in the fall, which the non-tenure-track faculty advocates have spurned.

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In addition to freezing pay, Harreld last month announced his campus was responding to deappropriations by imposing a five-month building moratorium across campus, halting new construction until September — including for UI Health Care and athletics projects.

All three universities also are expecting to raise tuition in the fall — with a proposal headed toward final approval at the Board of Regents meeting in June.

The University of Iowa recently began using a new budget model for its general education dollars, allowing each college and central service unit more control over their respective budgets. The change allows flexibility for faculty raises, including for non-tenure-track employees, based on resources, research productivity, and market conditions. That new process will continue once the pay freeze thaws, officials said.

“That will again be the case in January, as the individual colleges and units will determine their own salary policies,” according to UI strategic communications.

Upon hearing about the delay in raises, UI associate finance professor Art Durnev said he thinks the move is reasonable — in light of the circumstances.

“I do not think this new policy will have an impact on faculty hiring and retention,” he told The Gazette in an email. “This is a good change.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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