Where are the college professors getting big pay raises?

College professors getting big pay raises apparently are the new $100,000 waiter and waitress.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers started a bit of a brouhaha on MPR’s Midday yesterday when he said, “it’s also troubling when families have had a 30- or 40percent pay cut and you see a college professor get a 20- or 30-percent increase in pay.” The assertion is reminiscent of gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer’s invoking the specter of $100,000 waiters and waitresses in a discussion about the state’s minium wage.

Professors who get 30- and 40-percent pay increases? Like who? Some college professors would like to know. We’ve heard from a few in the last 24 hours.

“No Minnesota State Colleges and University faculty represented by the IFO received any pay raises in the last two-year contract,” Margaretta S. Handke of Mankato says. “We were aware of the state budget problems and did not ask for any.”

Diane Fleury-Evans, the director of the radiologic technology program at Century College said Speaker Kurt Zellers “obviously has no idea of what he speaks of.”

I am a MnSCU faculty member and never in my history of teaching have I ever seen a 20 – 30% pay increase,” she said. ” It has been almost four years since I have seen any pay increase, but yet the cost of living keeps on increasing. I am considering leaving the state because of the financial situation. I had hoped to retire here but I am having second thoughts.

“I work hard for my living and believe my job of teaching our younger generation to work in radiology- healthcare, is vital and essential. Someone has to provide quality care of us baby boomers. Does the speaker realize how hard it would be to attract quality faculty to teach here in Minnesota based on the current salary scale?” she said.

Would you ask the Speaker to identify the names of the MNSCU faculty members that have gotten a pay increase and specifically those that were privileged to get a 20 – 30 % increase? Did I get left out? Maybe they could give me a loan so I can live on my paycheck after my soon to be increased health insurance premium has been deducted .

I am appalled that anyone can make such a statement that is SO blatantly false and as a public servant he should have a better idea of what is/has occurring/occurred in higher education.

At the University of Minnesota, “salary floors” for 2011-2012 are unchanged from 2010-2011, according the U’s Web site. The 12-month term has a base of $38,682. Last spring the university ordered a 1.15 percent temporary reduction in pay against all sources that make up their salaries.

Speaker Zellers has not yet responded to a request for clarification of his remarks.

  • Zellers must have made a mistake; he couldn’t be lying.

  • Heather

    Isn’t that the same guy who said that voting is “a privilege, not a right”?

  • John P.

    I live in his district. I’ll do my part to vote him out next time.

  • Fern

    I’ve read the last sentence three times and still do not understand it:

    ” against all sources that make up their salaries for the year.”

    What does that mean?

  • Joanna

    There is so much misinformation floating around out there about faculty pay! some professors (law and business) are well compensated. Most are paid enough, and some are very poorly paid. It depends on your field, not your rank.

    At the U of MN (can’t speak about MNSCU or private institutions) faculty NEVER get cost of living increases; we get “merit increases” based on performance. These are a percentage of our base pay. So if I get a 2% raise, that’s 2% of what I make. My colleague down the hall, who might make more, will get 2% of what his base salary is. So while we might both get 2%, the dollar amounts will be different. This means that, over time, the distance between our salaries will grow. The longer back you were hired, the lower your salary may be in comparison to new hires who are being offered the market rate.

    Merit raise increases (that 2%, for example) are capped at whatever the state has allocated that year, minus whatever Central administration deducts and whatever your College deducts to pay other salary obligations (retentions, etc). In the 22 years I have worked at the U, we have had at least 4 years where there was no money for any pay increases at all for faculty, including the last two years, and yes, we did get a 1.5% pay reduction. Without saying how much I earn, I will say that I will be eligible for a small Pell grant when my child is old enough to go to college.

    A professor who is being recruited by another institution of higher ranking might get a higher pay offer from them, and the U might offer to raise that person’s pay as a part of a retention offer. That is the only way that you might see a raise above the state-mandated cap. Then again, the U might say “it’s been nice knowin’ ya” and let you go off.

    Unfortunately, right now other universities (especially the elite privates, but not only) are raiding our faculty by offering big bucks that we can’t afford to match because they know we are in dire budgetary straits. I’m really sad to see that we have not replaced about 1/10 of the faculty in my college who left or retired in the last two years, and that many are leaving.

    The comments I read in the press about how faculty are over-paid and hardly work make me so sad because the faculty I work with are dedicated, work long hours, and genuinely care for students. We are public servants and it hurts to be treated with such contempt.

  • Bismuth

    @Fern – I would guess the language speaks to the fact that some professors do not receive 100% of their salary from the university. The one arrangement I am aware of is where professors are paid by the university on a 9-month basis, and if they want to receive summer pay, they must incorporate those funds into a research grant or some other outside funding source. However, I’m sure there are other situations where a professor’s salary may come from multiple sources as well.

  • davidz

    Here’s how I understand it, Fern, not being on the faculty but being somewhat aware of how this stuff works (or used to, it’s been a while since I’ve graced the halls of the U).

    Many faculty members take a base salary from the University, plus additional compensation that is written into the various grant proposals that they work on. Their base salary may only be 25% of their income, and reflects their normal faculty duties (teaching, mainly) while their research is funded by these other sources.

    In some circumstances, the administration has little to no control over their other sources. In this case, the administration of the U has mandated that the income from this other sources is also to be suitably reduced to meet the mandate of cost savings. That way a faculty member couldn’t just increase their compensation from grants to offset their base salary reduction.

  • BJ

    I see some people talking about grants. What kind of grants are made to these folks? Seems that a few might have grants, but think it very unlikly (prove me wrong) that all have grants. I would guess it’s a very small number.

  • Jon

    doesn’t simply being speaker of the house come with exactly a 40% raise over your fellow representatives? Maybe he mistook him self for a professor.

  • Bismuth

    @BJ – Typically, any professor who engages in research activity depends on grants to pay for that research – equipment, supplies, grad student salaries, etc. These grants often come from the federal government (NSF, NIH, etc), but may come from private/industry sources as well. Sometimes this money comes in the form of the establishment of a multimillion dollar research center to support the research of dozens of faculty across any departments (see, for example the U of M MRSEC), while other times the grants are smaller and awarded on an individual basis.

    This research activity is quite common in the sciences at institutions such as the U of M, but has been on the increase in smaller schools as well. I don’t know what typical funding sources are for other programs such as fine arts or literature, but I imagine the professors aren’t expected to cover their scholarly expenses from personal income.

  • Bismuth

    I should emphasize that grant money is earmarked for research activities and does not contribute to a professor’s salary except in the case I mentioned above, when the professor specifically writes their “missing” salary into the grant proposal.

  • Alison

    I bet he could find a professor who got that big of a raise. Someone must have went from adjunct to regular faculty, taken a department chairship, or completed a degree moving them over a salary lane. It would be misleading but technically true.

  • Hillary

    @Bismuth – I think (and I may be wrong) that science postdocs and lab employees are often grant funded. Postdocs might still be considered faculty.

    Federal grants often support research that’s important but not immediately commercial. One friend did mercury research, another studies yeast.

  • Chris N.

    @Hillary – yes, postdocs and lab employees are grant funded. Grants also help fund graduate students doing work in the lab. However, the U administers these funds, so folks are paid by the U and considered employees of the U.

    I don’t know this for certain, but I don’t believe that faculty have much control over supplementing their pay via grant funds, unless they get a prize or award that gives them money personally (e.g. a Nobel prize).

  • Bismuth

    @Hillary – Yes, postdocs and grad students are typically funded by grants, and depending on the school may be considered students or employees of the university. However, I don’t know of anywhere that considers postdocs as faculty, as they are almost by definition, temporary positions.

    @Chris – I believe you are correct, in that salaries built into grants are not supplemental — a professor can’t just write any old number on the grant proposal, it has to be proportional to the part of their salary that is not funded by the school. So, if a school hires a professor at $60k per year, the school actually pays $45k for the 9 months of teaching duties, and thus the professor may include $15k in a grant application for their salary. Bringing this back to the (sort of) point of the post, any applicable pay reductions would also have to apply to the amount the professor is able to write into the grant (or any other source by which they might derive part of their salary).

  • nt

    If I teach summer school at a MNSCU institution, I can increase my salary by about 10%. Grants for summer research work might give me another 8%, so I can imagine the sort of salary fluctuation he’s referring to as plausible. Should I teach for a month for free to save the state some money?

    I don’t understand how these jerks get off deriding public servants (particularly teachers). It isn’t healthy to demonize the people who build the social fabric of the society you enjoy.

  • John O.

    The fact that the Speaker has to resort to this kind of minutiae once again indicates that there is little or no concern about the effects of their decisions on the lives of average Minnesotans.

  • Jay Sieling

    It looks a like a special session is looming. I would suggest Mr. Zellers and the rest of our lawmakers take NO PAY for a special session. In his own words (sort of): “it troubling when families have had a 30 -40 percent cut and we see lawmakers about to get EXTRA PAY for a special session because they couldn’t get their job done on time!!!!

    Stop wasting time on the marriage ammendments and all the other ideologue agenda items and focus on the task at hand: jobs and the budget!!!

  • Paul J

    I assume that the office of Speaker Zellers will say that his assertion was #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement. This seems to be the modus operandi for the modern legislator.

  • Damon Kapke

    As a faculty member within the two-year system, I feel that is very important for the people of Minnesota to have correct information as they weigh the importance of supporting higher education and, ultimately, supporting those who dedicate their professional lives to teaching. Speaker Zeller’s comments appeared counterproductive to a healthy and meaningful debate about this important issue.