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Merit pay

“Step” pay increases will be replaced by a merit pay system beginning in 2014 at Nevada’s community colleges. Additionally, as reported Sunday by the Review-Journal’s Yesenia Amaro, the higher education system’s four-year institutions will restart their merit-pay programs, which have been frozen since 2009 because of a lack of funding.

Merit pay is a far better policy than step raises, which reward public employees simply for remaining in their job for another year, regardless of performance.

But can Nevada’s public colleges and universities really afford to boost the pay of their employees?

As Ms. Amaro reported, the system’s six-day furlough policy remains in place at all higher education institutions. Granting any kind of pay raise when employees still must take more than a week of unpaid leave each year makes no sense — if budgets are so stretched that furloughs are necessary, how do colleges expect to have the funding for merit pay? Better to return all employees to work every day than to implement pay raises.

Once the higher education system can afford to end furloughs, the guidelines for merit pay should be transparent and demanding, rewarding only top performers. This is not Little League, where everyone gets a trophy. If everyone can get a merit pay raise, it’s essentially a step raise. Especially in this economy, meeting minimum expectations of performance should not be the benchmark for earning a raise.

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