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N.D. State Board listens to faculty wage complaints

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. - Faculty representatives from North Dakota University System campuses told state Board of Higher Education members Thursday in Devils Lake that low pay leads to high faculty turnover and an impression that the state's professor...

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. - Faculty representatives from North Dakota University System campuses told state Board of Higher Education members Thursday in Devils Lake that low pay leads to high faculty turnover and an impression that the state's professors are below par.

North Dakota faculty members are consistently listed as among the lowest paid in the nation and rank dead last on several lists.

One representative from the Council of College Faculties compared the impression created by low faculty pay to an advertisement for low-cost surgery. After initial excitement about the good value, she said, consumers begin to wonder what's wrong with the product.

Tom Barnhart, the state board's faculty representative, said roughly 55 percent of university system faculty members leave their jobs within the first five years and the most often cited reason for leaving is low pay.

"We're a great training ground for faculty," he said, "but once they've got that training, they go somewhere else."

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North Dakota universities also are often forced to offer newly hired faculty larger salaries than what's paid to longtime employees in order to attract good candidates, Barnhart said.

Faculty pay has consistently been at the top of the agenda for the Council of College Faculties, which includes representatives from all 11 state public colleges and universities.

The issue gained more footing after a recent state board decision to raise university presidents' pay to a competitive level with schools' peer institutions. Barnhart supported the presidential pay raise, but asked board members to follow it up with a commitment to raise faculty salaries. Barnhart does not have an official vote at board meetings.

A joint committee of CCF representatives and state board members will consider faculty pay issues, board members said.

Jon Jackson, a University of North Dakota CCF representative, said the group hopes to sell a faculty pay raise as a chance for faculty to be more actively involved in the university system's economic development mission and other state objectives, rather than simply asking for more money.

In a separate discussion, university system Vice Chancellor Mike Hillman outlined a proposal to alter the system by which system faculty and staff receive free academic credits.

Hillman said faculty and staff can now take up to three traditional academic credits per semester in any discipline free of charge, but cannot take continuing education or distance education credits.

He outlined a plan by which faculty and staff may take as many academic credits as they wish at one-third the cost, provided the campus that employs them considers those credits to be beneficial to the faculty or staff member's career.

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Hillman's plan would also include distance and continuing education courses in the mix. According to the plan, the employing campus and the campus offering the course would each cover one-third of the cost of the class.

His plan will be considered by a joint committee of system administrators and faculty members.

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

N.D. State Board listens to faculty wage complaints 20071116

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