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Boise State’s budget grapples with faculty pay

Faculty pay is a balancing act where students’ tuitions hang in the balance

With a hearing on possible new tuition hikes scheduled later this month, many students could be feeling financial pressure to pay for increased costs of many of Boise State’s programs. At the same time, some faculty could also feel financial pressure from budget limitations.While these two issues might appear to affect two completely different demographics, they actually all tie into the complex knot that is Boise State’s appropriated budget.

The salary for each department is determined by private market competition, public funding and tuition. Each department has different salary demands in order to ensure the best possible teaching experience. Some programs, such as Biology, Nursing, and Electrical Engineering, received comparatively more money for salaries than other similarly sized programs.

One for you, two for me, three for them

Because Boise State doesn’t have enough funds to  raise salaries across the board, different departments with different degrees are paid varying amounts.

According to Boise State’s Appropriated Budget Book for the fiscal year 2016, the amount of money allocated to each department for salaries is correlated with the  Full Time Equivalency—or FTE, the amount of 40 hour work weeks completed over a year—for each department. Generally for the previous fiscal year, the more hours worked by the staff and faculty of a department, the more salary is allocated to that department. However, some departments receive higher pay per FTE than others.

According to Martin Schimpf, Boise State provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, the job market for faculty members is competitive, and universities like Boise State draw in the best faculty by providing competitive salaries for new hires.

“We belong to an organization called the College and University Professional Association (CUPA). Each year CUPA surveys its members at over one thousand universities on their salaries. They collect all that data and they make it available through a database that can be searched,” Schimpf said. “We use to that help us set new salaries when we hire new professors as well as staff.”

Competition between universities is a driving factor in the varying salaries allocated to different departments. The amount of qualified applicants in each field is also a determining factor.

“A lot of it comes down to supply and demand. When there’s an overabundance for job applicants in one discipline the salaries may not be as high as in other disciplines where there are not as many folks available. Some disciplines salaries are quite a bit higher than others. (The College of) Business and Engineering tend to demand higher salaries for example,” Schimpf said.

Offering the best for the best

Boise State also provides other incentives to new faculty members to try to convince them into joining the University’s faculty. Some of these incentives are making sure the faculty have adequate supplies on hand to teach—such as lab equipment—and providing a quality facility to house classrooms and supplies. Making improvements to attract faculty to the university is an ongoing task, as evidenced by the recent construction plans for a new Fine Arts Building, as reported in the Sept. 20, 2016  Arbiter article, “Art program made priority with construction of new Fine Arts Building.”

“The most important thing (is) for factuality to feel like the university is invested in them and that they’ll have what they need to be successful here,” Schimpf said.

Providing the best faculty to teach students can be extremely important in training intensive fields such as healthcare. 

“Qualifications for nursing faculty are set by the national accreditation bodies of programs, ie undergraduate and graduate and the Idaho Board of Nursing,” said Ann Hubbert, director of the School of Nursing.  “Our faculty meet licensure criteria as RNs (registered nurses) and also for Nurse Practitioners if they teach in that graduate program. Tenure track positions must have a doctoral degree.”

These requirements— along with competition from other universities—are why some faculty members, such as ones in the School of Nursing, need to be offered higher and more competitive salaries than others.

“Our salary rate for these adjuncts is competitive with RN salaries. In addition, nurse practitioners in the University Health Services also teach in some of our graduate classes for our nurse practitioner program. Any adjuncts hired in that graduate program are also paid the competitive salary,”  Hubbert said.

Salaries and tuition. An expensive relationship

Faculty salaries can become uncompetitive over an amount of time, at which point students tuitions enter the mix . Due to a variety of factors such as lack of funding, the salary that faculty at Boise State work for can fall behind the national average, according to Ken Kline, assistant vice president for Budget and Planning.

“We don’t get the sort of funding we need to stay competitive. A lot of our faculty are working very hard and being paid below market and are staying here. We try to work to address those salary equity issues. It’s tough, because our funding levels are pretty low.” Kline said.

Schimpf also listed a lack of funding as a main problem in keeping salaries competitive for Boise State faculty. He said this problem can lead to a loss of some faculty members and an increase in tuition cost.

“The most seasoned and well experienced staff can slip behind the national average,” Schimpf said. “In certain areas—like IT—we can start loosing people to other opportunities. We often have to increase our tuition to give every employee an increase. It can be a struggle to keep it up.”

Funding for Boise State has, and continues to be, a contentious issue locally. A public hearing was just announced for Tuesday, Feb. 21 regarding a hike in tuition costs for students. The increase will charge full-time students an extra $200 per semester.

A ray of financial hope?

Some of Boise State’s  funding problems can be solved with  changes to the model Idaho uses to fund colleges, as reported in a Sept. 27, 2016 Arbiter article titled “Outcome-based model seeks to fix funding disparities.”

Finding and keeping quality faculty for students has been, and will remain, a top priority for Boise State going into the future, according to Schimpf. Many departments are proud of the faculty they have on staff.  Hubbert commended the faculty of the School of  Nursing  and was thankful for the large number of qualified faculty able to teach the next generation of healthcare professionals.

“We are very fortunate that many superb nurses and nurse practitioners also want to teach and we are not challenged like so many national schools of nursing are to recruit qualified faculty,” Hubbert said.