If Gov. Norm Bangerter's higher education budget recommendation is adopted, Utah college professors could conceivably find their pay raise flowing into one pocket while some of the increase goes out the other.
The State Board of Regents heard Friday that the recommended 3 percent pay raise to college faculty and staff could be partially eaten up by the governor's recommended reduction in funding for the benefits package.The Bangerter budget suggests funding only half of the $3.1 million recommended by the regents to cover cost increases in the employee benefit package, including social security and medical/dental insurance.
At the regents' monthly meeting, held at Snow College, Scott C. Gilmore of the State Office of Planning and Budget said higher education will have to do with less somewhere to make up the difference. "We realize you can't do what you did before with this budget. That's sacrifice."
But the regents said they absolutely don't want cuts in the benefits package, and will push legislators to embrace their recommendations, which wouldn't slice funding to benefits and would give faculty a 4.5 percent pay raise.
If legislators approve the Bangerter recommendation, college administrators said they may have to use the salary increase to offset the benefits cut to the 6,500 faculty and staff at the state's nine colleges and universities. Years of funding cuts have left bare-bones budgets with no room to absorb more funding decreases, they said.
"I'm really unhappy with this budget," said President Kerry D. Romesburg of Utah Valley Community College.
He said his school would lose $120,000 from Bangerter's plan and he would be forced to make up the difference out of the pay increase of his 400 employees. The drop would shave almost 1 percent off the pay raise.
"We need to be honest and say that we're only funding a pay raise of 2 percent," Romesburg said.
Weber State College President Stephen D. Nadauld called faculty salaries the most critical issue facing higher education today. Low faculty salaries make it extremely difficult to compete in the national collegiate market for qualified people, he said.
Utah faculty members haven't had a significant pay raise in three years and their salaries are 20 percent or more below the salaries of faculty at comparable, out-of-state institutions, he said.
University of Utah Provost James L. Clayton said faculty on his campus will view the salary-benefits recommendation as a double cut. A 3 percent increase doesn't even match the 4-5 percent inflation, plus "when you begin to cut benefits, you are crossing a new line."
Several college administrators were also upset with the Bangerter budget's treatment of increased funding for enrollment. The budget funds growth at its current level at the expense of future growth.
But that, in effect, penalizes schools which have turned away students to ease overcrowding, the administrators said. They said one reason that enrollment dropped at some Utah colleges this fall was that students weren't admitted because of space and funding shortage.
Romesburg reported that UVCC denied entrance to 350 students this fall because it didn't have room in its general education classes. However, next fall its new classroom building will be able to accommodate 800 to 1,000 more students. UVCC won't be able to admit them if the Bangerter plan is approved, he said.
Regent Dale O. Zabriskie noted that the governor's budget left in place the regents' recommendation to spend more than $1 million to fund enrollment increases in nursing and engineering. He said he'd rather the money go to salaries than increase enrollment there.
Regent Ian M. Cumming said the regents will eventually have to decide how to balance increasing enrollment against the need for higher salaries. Inadequate funding of salaries coupled with an ever-increasing enrollment will eventually mean mediocrity for Utah higher education, he said.