PoliGraph: Zellers wrong on professor pay

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Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R- Maple Grove, may have heard from some angry professors this week.

During a discussion about cuts to the state’s higher education budget, Zellers said that college professors have seen their pay rise while other workers are getting paid less.

“It’s… troubling when families have had a 30-or-40 percent pay cut and you see a college professor get a 20-or-30 percent increase in pay,” he told Midday host Gary Eichten.

That’s not correct. Most public school professors have seen pay cuts and salary freezes, not pay increases.

The Evidence

In 2009, faculty working for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) agreed to a two-year pay freeze.

There were a few exceptions to this rule. Teachers at two-year schools could get a salary bump if they completed additional graduate work. Professors at MnSCU’s universities received a 4.8 percent salary increase if they met career milestones. And university faculty promoted during the freeze earned more pay.

The University of Minnesota also tightened pay. During the most recent fiscal year, faculty salaries were cut by 1.15 percent. And in 2010, faculty salaries were frozen.

Daniel Wolter, spokesman for the U of M, says about 100 of the university’s 4,100 faculty members at the Twin Cities campus were offered retention pay, which is given to teachers in particularly competitive fields who may be looking to leave the school. He said amounts of that pay vary based on the job and the type of research the professor is doing.

In a separate interview, Zellers said he misunderstood the headline of a 2009 MPR News story that focused on the $300,000 in bonuses paid to top MnSCU administrators, not faculty.

The Verdict

In some instances, college faculty saw pay increases in the last couple of years. But the majority of Minnesota’s public school professors have been working under pay freezes and pay cuts.

Zellers’ claim is false.


Minnesota Public Radio News, Midday, May 16, 2011

The University of Minnesota, Equity During Budget Cuts, March 31, 2011

Minnesota Public Radio News, MnSCU bonuses to top staffers nears $300K, by Tim Post, Sept. 17, 2009

Minnesota State University – Mankato, State university faculty, MnSCU system reach tentative salary accord, Feb. 23, 2009

Interview, Daniel Wolter, News Service Director, University of Minnesota, May 19, 2011

Interview, Melinda Voss, spokeswoman, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, May 19, 2011

Interview, Russ Stanton, MnSCU Interfaculty Organization, May 20, 2011


The Humphrey School

  • Sue

    THANK YOU, PoliGraph, for looking into this! The public needs to hear the real facts. As for Rep Zellers, his erroneous conclusion from his poor reading of the material earns him an F.

  • faculty wife & higher ed administrator

    Thanks for clarifying….My husband hasn’t received an increase in THREE YEARS! 20 – 30 % pay raises each year? Ha! We wish. Let’s get the politicians to stop the hyperbole and start working, like the rest of us.