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K-State Today

May 15, 2013

From the president and provost: Faculty and staff compensation

By Kirk Schulz and April Mason

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier this week the office of the provost shared the 2012 COACHE faculty satisfaction survey through K-State Today. The results indicate we are moving in the right direction overall as we look toward 2025. K-State scored highly when compared to our peers in terms of institutional direction and communication.

As expected, salaries and facilities/infrastructure were two items at the top of the list for improvements. This is consistent with what we heard when we arrived four years ago — lots of concern about deferred maintenance, leaky roofs, poor salaries and increased student enrollment without increased faculty and staff. Despite the budget situation in our state since the recession, by working together we are making progress on all these fronts. 

Last week, we heard about concerns raised by the K-State 2012 Faculty Salary Fact Sheet and Annual Headcount and Total Salary by Personnel Category table provided to Faculty Senate with data from the office of planning and analysis. Specifically, we want to address some claims that have been brought to our attention:

  • First, that university leadership made statements to Faculty Senate leadership in 2009 that administrators would not get raises if faculty did not;
  • Second, that disproportionate investments are being made for deans and other administrators at the expense of faculty and unclassified professionals. 

This letter provides our response to these claims, with links to key reports and accurate data that can serve as the basis for our continued dialogue on the important issues surrounding compensation.

To address the first claim, we firmly believe that investing in our people is critical to our future as a university. We continued to invest in both faculty and unclassified professionals, including administrators, during the past five years. We have not provided merit raises for anyone since 2009. However, salary adjustments have been made to positions and provided to numerous faculty (tenure and non-tenure track) and unclassified professionals (including administrators) as a result of recruitment, retention, equity and accretion of duties, professorial performance awards, tenure track promotions, and across the board cost-of-living increases.   

The second claim arises from data in the report titled Annual Headcount and Total Salary by Personnel Category table, showing that funding for “upper administration” and “Deans” has been increased by 34 percent and 43 percent respectively, while funding for instructional and research and extension faculty has increased only 4 percent. The report cites percentage “raises” for senior administrators versus faculty, which in our view does not give an accurate picture. The table includes existing positions filled in the last few years and reflects people coming into new positions, where we negotiated competitive salaries, as we have for new faculty. As stated last fall in our meetings with the colleges and major units, we need to find ways to address the salary compression, inversion and equity issues being created by hiring new faculty and staff at higher levels than current staff. This was one of the charges to the Faculty Compensation Task Force last fall.

In addition, the percentage increase for “upper administration” is calculated based on the March 29, 2013, pay period, while the data for all other categories came from HRIS on Nov. 1, 2012. Salary adjustments have been provided to others since November, as well as the cost-of-living increase. In order to draw reliable conclusions, we need to compare apples to apples. We will be working with planning and analysis in the coming days to get a better understanding of this chart and the conclusions drawn from the data set. Additional data will be shared as it becomes available.

Finally, the 4 percent increase for research and extension faculty in this table does not tell the full story. We are currently investing nearly $6 million from central funds to make up for state and federal dollars lost to support research and extension faculty and staff. As a land-grant institution, we believe it is particularly important to protect research and extension, so this has been an important investment of money reallocated to personnel. 

We have stated publicly and repeatedly that competitive compensation for all faculty and staff is a problem and addressing it is critical to the future of K-State. Our K-State 2025 plan identifies improved compensation as a key outcome between now and 2020. We have shared the recommendations of the unclassified professional task force and the faculty compensation task force, as well as posting the Human Capital Services Assessment report on the K-State 2025 website. All these reports indicate that our compensation structures are broken; we are taking proactive steps to address these issues.

Yet, progress is being made, including on salaries for instructional faculty. The most recent peer comparison data available in the Kansas Board of Regents 2012 Data Book shows K-State as No. 2 among the regents’ institutions in average salaries of instructional faculty, moving up from No. 3 to No. 2 in 2012. More importantly, it shows that we have increased relative funding of instructional faculty salaries between FY2008 and FY2012 from 90.6 percent to 92.5 percent and are now No. 1 in relative funding of instructional faculty salaries among regents institutions. While this can change in any given year if we do not sustain our efforts, the trend has generally been upward.

K-State continues to have low salaries compared to our peers across all ranks; but based on salary data by discipline, we rate much better at the full professor rank. We are looking closely at the available data compiled in the K-State Faculty Salary Data Analysis by College, Department and Discipline Report to develop strategies to move our compensation beyond peer averages across all ranks to include competitive salaries by discipline. 

We are developing a three-year compensation plan to address competitive compensation for K-Staters. The plan calls for the majority of the new investment going to faculty and staff to address compression/inversion issues and the addition of new tenure-track faculty lines and merit pay. Once the Legislature completes its budget and the Board of Regents determines next year’s tuition increase in mid-June, we will release the plan consistent with funds available. We will also be developing compensation structures for unclassified professionals and non-tenure track faculty, which will require additional funding resources.

Our compensation challenges are not short term and will require additional planning and resource development between now and 2025. It will require accurate data for decision-making. Bearing in mind that additional funds will not be coming from the state any time soon, we will continue to rely on increasing tuition and student enrollment as well as private fundraising. We must all become more creative and entrepreneurial when it comes to finding solutions to these challenges.

Given the budget environment we have been in for the past five years, we are proud of the progress made. Salaries are important as well as total number of faculty and facilities and infrastructure. We must continue to take a balanced approach on all fronts, working as a team on behalf of the best interests of Kansas State University.

Kirk Schulz and April Mason

Kirk Schulz             

April Mason
President Provost and Senior Vice President