Higher education

University of Iowa puts nearly $5 million toward faculty pay raises

Harreld has made it a priority to invest in 'highly productive' faculty

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld (left) shares a light moment with Iowa Provost Susan Curry during the Board of Regents State of Iowa meeting at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Thursday, April 20, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld (left) shares a light moment with Iowa Provost Susan Curry during the Board of Regents State of Iowa meeting at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Thursday, April 20, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — After telling the Board of Regents this month that University of Iowa colleges will have enough money despite cuts to raise faculty salaries in the new budget year to nearer the median of their peers, UI President Bruce Harreld specified Thursday his administration is allocating $4.9 million toward that goal.

All but one of the UI’s 11 colleges will receive a portion. The College of Education already met its goal and so isn’t receiving any new funds for salary raises.

The unit set to get the biggest portion — $3.2 million — is the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, followed by $501,536 to the Henry B. Tippie College of Business, $290,721 to the College of Pharmacy, and $216,373 to the College of Engineering.

Harreld has been vocal about his push to increase salary levels for full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty to be 95 percent of the median of its peer group — which includes 10 similar institutions like the Universities of California, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, and Arizona.

He said doing so is paramount in preventing an exodus of faculty to other institutions. The UI already is losing top researchers and academics to schools that pay more.

In a news release Thursday, the university said its Office of the Provost analyzed faculty salary data from the American Association of Universities in its decision to distribute the $4.9 million. Asked to clarify the salary median they’re trying to achieve, UI officials said peer group medians “vary significantly by field of study and rank.”

Medians are the points where half the salaries being examined are higher and half are lower. Another common but different measure — averages — are the total amounts of the salaries being examined divided by the number of people receiving them.

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The UI’s average professor salary was $135,283 in the 2016-17 budget year, according to a salary report. Its average for an associate professor was $93,072 and its average for an assistant professor was $83,865.

A data set produced by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows the average professor salary among all four-year public universities in the 2015-2016 academic year was $113,738.

When looking specifically at the UI’s 10 peers for that year, UCLA reported the highest professor pay average at $184,509, and the University of Wisconsin reported the lowest at $118,116.

The faculty salary increase comes against a backdrop of tight budget times. In its efforts to cut $9.2 million from its current budget — forced through a takeback of state appropriations — the UI has credited savings through new efficiencies, student aid adjustments and flood-recovery funds.

The university has said it expects to save $1.8 million in student financial aid reductions from students who fail to meet minimum grade requirements. It’s also expecting to save $4.9 million in funds that had been committed to flood recovery but are being released now that most recovery work is over.

And the university is expecting $16.5 million in new revenue this fall from a tuition increase.

UI collegiate leadership received more control last year over their budgets. Unit heads were tasked with finding ways to raise salaries to “curtail the poaching of UI faculty by better-funded competitors.”

That resulted in an average faculty salary increase of 2.6 percent for the 2017 budget year and an average staff salary pay raise of 2.5 percent for non-bargaining professional and scientific employees.

The new money may be phased in over time after the fall enrollment numbers become clear.

In previous comments, Harreld has said investing in “highly productive faculty” will reap long-term benefits for students, the campus, the state and beyond.

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“This long-term investment in the future of the UI is due to the effective management of our deans, which I am so appreciative of,” he told regents earlier this month. “Let me be clear, this is just the first step as this gets us to a competitive level if it was 2016. While we have begun the process of digging out of our hole, we have several more rungs to climb on this ladder.”

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

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