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Faculty at CSN oppose regents’ plan to change salary formula

College of Southern Nevada faculty are crying foul over a proposed change to salary schedules that they say could significantly drop compensation levels for new hires and make it harder to retain current professors.

The change proposed this month at a meeting of the Nevada Systems of Higher Education Board of Regents would determine faculty salaries by comparing them to those at similar schools across the country.

That’s the system already in place at Nevada’s four-year universities, but community college faculty are instead paid 78 percent of what their university peers make — and they want to keep it that way.

Charles Milne, chairman of the Faculty Senate at CSN, said moving to a market-based system wouldn’t work for community college professors because community colleges are underrepresented in national college salary databases, making finding true peer schools nearly impossible.

Milne also argues that the proposal devalues community college professors at a time when two-year degree programs are badly needed to fill jobs that require some college education but not a bachelor’s degree. The CSN Faculty Senate voted Sept. 13 to unanimously to pass a resolution strongly opposing the changes.

“We can’t retain or recruit quality faculty,” Milne said. “They don’t view community colleges as very valuable.”

Board of Regents action

The Board of Regents last year commissioned a study by insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher and Co. to compare salaries for faculty at each NSHE campus with peer groups nationwide. The study found that the 50th percentile salary for community college faculty at NSHE was about 14 percent higher than that of a market comparison of peers.

But Milne said nine of 10 peer schools selected for CSN were not good matches, either because they don’t offer four-year programs as CSN does, or because they don’t offer tenure and thus have more faculty turnover.

Milne said that NSHE’s community colleges previously were on a market-based system, which caused salaries to begin dropping from around 83 percent of what university professors made in 1999 to 70 percent of university salaries in 2012. The 78 percent compromise was reached by an NSHE committee in 2013 and meant to eventually return them to the 83 percent level, according to Milne.

But Board of Regents Chairman Jason Geddes said the proposed change, which will come to a vote in December, is a matter of standardizing how faculty are paid based on national trends.

The current system determines compensation internally, via an NSHE committee and based on Nevada data, but a market-rate model would be a better comparison to schools nationwide, he said.

“That’s who we’re hiring against,” Geddes said.

The change would not see current faculty salaries drop, Geddes said, but instead determine salaries for new hires, which could come in at a lower rate than in the past if the market dictated it. The Gallagher report provided salary comparisons for both faculty and administrative staff, according to Geddes.

However, Milne said that existing faculty would likely not see their salaries rise at the same level as they have recently under the proposed system.

Gallagher data

The Gallagher study found that overall, NSHE pays competitively or above market rates compared with peer institutions and salaries likely do not need to be revised at this time. The study further recommended that NSHE academic and administrative salary schedules be reviewed every three to five years to ensure that salary levels are consistent with the marketplace.

NSHE executives’ salaries were shown to be significantly higher in many cases than that of their peers at comparable schools. The midpoint salary for community college executives, for example, was shown to be about 27 percent higher than at peer institutions, though the Gallagher report states that the figure is based on only five employees and comparisons should be made on an individual level.

The study included a similar disclaimer for state college executives’ salaries, which were found to be 40 percent to 60 percent higher than that of peers nationwide.

An annual survey of faculty salary by the American Association of University Professors found that presidents of institutions are paid on average almost five times as much as their full-time faculty.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at aappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0218. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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