State System offers faculty cash payments this year, raises next two
Aug. 25, 2016
Harrisburg, Pa. - In the midst of serious fiscal constraints, Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education has proposed increasing faculty pay --already among the highest in the nation -- while preserving student affordability. "Even though the State System is dealing with unprecedented financial challenges that are impacting our universities, our faculty salaries continue to rank in the top 10 to 15 percent among their peers nationally," said State System spokesman Kenn Marshall -- a fact acknowledged by the faculty union on its website earlier this year. "While we are proud that our faculty are compensated so well, we also acknowledge that rising tuition is putting a strain on students and their families. We need to work together to control our costs in order to keep a State System university education affordable." The State System presented to the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties a proposal that would provide a cash payment to all full-time permanent and temporary faculty this year and raises in each of the following two years -- all contingent on cost savings.
To help control rising costs, the State System proposal continues to call for implementing for faculty the same healthcare plan design changes that were applied in January to other State System employees. Among other cost-saving changes, the proposal also maintains another earlier provision that would redefine the workload for temporary faculty -- allowing them to focus exclusively on teaching.
"We have been bargaining in good faith with APSCUF in an attempt to reach a deal that is fair to everyone -- most important, to our students," said Marshall. "This latest offer attempts to address both the extraordinary contributions our faculty make to the success of our students and our universities and the fiscal reality our universities are facing. We must achieve an appropriate balance in order to ensure our universities can continue to offer high-quality educational opportunities to our students at an excellent value."
Funding to the State System -- like that in other states -- declined significantly during the recession that began in 2008. It wasn't until last year that the state was able to begin to restore some of the cuts that were made over most of the last decade. With continual advocacy by the State System and support by the governor and General Assembly, the System saw its first appropriations increases last year and again this year. Even with those recent increases, however, the universities are still receiving about the same level of funding as they did in 1999 -- 17 years ago -- not even accounting for inflation over that time. Despite declining enrollment in recent years, the System universities are serving almost 12,000 students more today than they did in 1999.
That lagging state funding, coupled with the Board of Governors' commitment to holding down annual tuition increases to keep a State System university education affordable, has required the universities to tightly manage their budgets--cutting a combined nearly $300 million in operating costs over the last decade, which includes eliminating or not filling almost 1,000 positions. "These efforts have allowed us to provide faculty with cash payments or raises in eight of the last ten years," said Marshall.
"Over the past several bargaining sessions with APSCUF, there has been some good progress on a number of issues. We hope this proposal will further our conversations toward reaching an agreement," Marshall said.
The healthcare plan changes sought by the State System mirror those already put into effect for all other employees covered by the System-administered plan, including university health center nurses; campus police and security officers; and all employees not represented by any union, including the chancellor, university presidents and other campus administrators.
Since January those employees have been contributing about $7 to $14 more every two-week pay period toward the cost of their health insurance premium -- depending on their level of coverage -- than are faculty. Other plan adjustments made at the beginning of this year include new deductible and co-insurance requirements for some medical services and higher prescription drug co-payments.
The State System worked with its healthcare provider on the plan changes to ensure they would both lower the cost of coverage for the System and continue to provide a level of benefits to employees that is extremely competitive in the higher education market, all without having any effect on the student learning experience or reducing other important services.
"Healthcare is one of the most significant cost drivers affecting our universities," Marshall said. "With students now supporting almost three-fourths of the universities' operating budgets through their tuition and fees, it is essential we do more to control those costs while also ensuring our employees continue to have access to a quality, affordable healthcare package. All of our other employees who participate in the System-administered healthcare plan already are contributing to this effort; we are asking our faculty to do the same."
TEMPORARY FACULTY WORKLOAD
The State System's proposal related to the distribution of the workload for temporary faculty recognizes the vital role they play, and how it differs from that of tenured and tenure-track faculty, who would not be affected by the proposed changes for temporary faculty.
All full-time faculty are currently responsible for teaching the equivalent of four courses each semester and for conducting research and providing service to the university. The State System is proposing that temporary full-time faculty teach one additional course per semester. In exchange, research and service would be eliminated from their workload. "This will enable temporary faculty to focus on their core purpose -- providing excellent instruction to our students," said Marshall.
Marshall added, "Redefining the workload of temporary faculty is intended to both produce overall cost savings for the universities and help ensure students have access to the courses they need to graduate on time."
Part-time, temporary faculty -- most of whom teach only one or two courses a semester -- also would no longer be required to conduct research and provide service to the university. They would continue to be paid on a prorated basis for the number of courses they teach. While the proposal would reduce the amount paid per course as a result of eliminating the requirement for research and service, the rate would continue to be well above the average amount paid by other colleges and universities in the region and nation.
Temporary faculty who teach at least four courses per semester also would continue to be eligible to receive the same package of healthcare coverage as regular, full-time faculty -- a benefit rarely provided to temporary faculty at other colleges and universities nationally. Negotiations between the State System and APSCUF will resume Aug. 25. Additional sessions are scheduled for later this month and in September. Fall semester classes are scheduled to begin Monday.
MEDIA CONTACT: Kenn Marshall | 717.720.4045 | firstname.lastname@example.org