Board Of Regents Approve Plan To Pursue 6 Percent Pay Increase For UW System Employees

UW System Officials Say Faculty Turnover Highlights Need For More Competitive Salaries

Microphone at UW System regents meeting
Photo courtesy of UW System

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents have approved a pay increase for all UW employees.

UW System President Ray Cross presented the pay plan during the Board of Regents meeting Thursday at UW-La Crosse. It calls for a 3 percent pay increase for all employees in each of the next two fiscal years.

Cross and other UW officials say faculty compensation at UW schools continues to lag behind peer institutions, leading to increased turnover.

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The total number of faculty within the UW System has declined over the last four fiscal years, according to data presented during a regents’ committee meeting Thursday.

As of October, there were 5,983 UW faculty members — an 8 percent decline from 2014.

The decline highlights the fact that salaries and compensation packages have not remained competitive with other universities, said Shenita Brokenburr, senior associate vice president for human resources and workforce diversity at UW System.

“We have individuals who are faculty and staff both who want tuition benefits for their families. We don’t offer that,” Brokenburr said. “There’s a lot of poaching going on from other institutions who are our peers. We have a lot of folks leaving just for better offers in total compensation.

Several UW chancellors voiced their frustrations with the impacts of non-competitive salaries during the committee meeting, including UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank

“On average, those who receive outside offers at our university get offers that are 40 percent higher than their current salary. That is unsustainable,” Blank said. “We are at the bottom of the Big 10 in our professor salaries. That means we are below Iowa and Nebraska and places that are smaller and lower cost. Those are not our peer schools. Forget our peer schools, we’re not even anywhere in the ballpark. And as long as that is true, we are going to be raided and we are going to keep losing our top people.”

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said being understaffed also puts more stress on faculty members.

“The people who remain are asked to do more. And as a result, we do have people who leave because they would like to get into a situation where they have a little bit more (of) a light balance with their responsibilities,” Leavitt said.

When introducing the pay plan to the Board of Regents, Cross said improving employee compensation will be a top priority in the coming fiscal years.

It’s an issue that impacts not only our 39,000 employees statewide but also the ability of the UW system to fuel a stronger workforce, stronger businesses and the quality of education for our 174,000 students,” Cross said.

Several regents voiced their support for the measure before the vote.

“While it doesn’t completely close the pay gap, I think it sends a very strong signal to our employees that we value the work they do and we value them,” said Regent Michael Jones.

The pay plan proposal will be submitted to the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employee Relations for consideration.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, with additional information. The headline of this story was also updated earlier Thursday to clarify the pay increase is for 6 percent over two years, 3 percent for each of the next two years. It originally stated 3 percent total. Wisconsin Public Radio is a service of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

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