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Despite raises, UW faculty salaries still lag

  • Associated Press
  • December 14, 2013 - 4:05 PM

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Even after three years of raises totaling more than $9 million, professors in the University of Wisconsin System still earn less than they could at comparable universities, according to a published report.

For example, full professors at UW-Madison earned an average salary of $106,200 last year, but the median salary among 11 similar schools was $134,500. Gannett Wisconsin Media reported (http://gbpg.net/19JVx6U ).

The figures underscore the challenge of attracting and retaining the best professors. The UW System has been aggressive about offering targeted raises, and officials have been pushing the Legislature for more control and flexibility to set competitive salaries. But even with those efforts, the pay gap remains significant.

Some faculty members are willing to accept lower salaries because they're comfortable in their careers. Consider Devinder Sandhu, a biology professor at UW-Stevens Point whose base salary is listed at $68,000. He says he regularly gets offers that would pay $93,000 or more, but he enjoys working with students in the school's plant-research lab.

"The salaries are way off, but there's also satisfaction in this job," Sandhu said.

But while Sandhu is staying put, many of his UW colleagues aren't.

A report compiled for a Board of Regents committee this month showed the UW System lost 1,182 faculty members between 2011 and 2013. The majority retired but nearly 500 quit.

"Our challenge is not the number of people we lose to other universities — it's which people we lose, and the resources ... they take with them down the road," UW System spokesman David Giroux said. "It's also a matter of which talented people never apply for a UW job because the salaries here are just not attractive enough."

System officials have been trying to close the compensation gap with targeted raises, but the amount spent on raises has dropped in each of the last three years: from $4.9 million in 2010-11 to $2.5 million the following year and $1.9 million last year.

UW-Madison wasn't the only school with a substantial pay gap. Salaries for full professors at UW-Milwaukee averaged $84,800 last year, compared to a median of $105,800 at 14 similar out-of-state schools. And professors at the 11 smaller UW universities made an average of $71,200, compared to an industry median of $93,100.

Aaron Crandall, the president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 223, which represents about 100 faculty and staff members at UW-Madison, said working for UW has historically been a point of pride for professors. But such a large pay gap erodes that good will.

"Eventually people will be like, 'I could really use more money, or I could really use more resources, or my program could expand if I go to this other university,'" he said.

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