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Friday, January 28, 2022

UW-Madison professor’s low pay negatively affects academic merit

 

This week, a Faculty Senate committee outlined its Commission on Faculty Compensation and Economic Benefits report, a report describing the growing problem that UW-Madison has and will be facing in regards to the salaries and compensation of its faculty. The report states that the salaries of instructors, specifically professors and assistant professors, are significantly lower compared to other Big Ten and public institutions.

In fact, the report notes that the situation “is critical,” stating that “UW-Madison is falling behind in its ability to compete for the best faculty, and it faces the prospect of losing many of its most talented professors to other institutions.”

UW-Madison, akin to any other institution, wants to keep its best professors and instructors. The institution is a global leader in intellectual and social advancements and elicits a respectable image worldwide.

However, this is a mounting problem that must be addressed and not ignored, as professors and other faculty members at UW-Madison have been obtaining job opportunities from other institutions. University officials fear that this could cause a decline in UW-Madison’s overall quality as a competitive and rigorous institution.

“Critical” is a keen word choice. While salaries for associate professors are close to average among other institutions, salaries for “full and assistant professors fall 15.6 percent and 6.0 percent respectively” in comparison to other schools, according to the report. That’s a $24 million annual shortfall in salaries for the school, a fairly large number considering UW-Madison is facing the second largest budget shortfall in more than 40 years.

The report suggests such things as reallocating existing resources, philanthropy, and strategic tuition increases as a means to support faculty compensation at competitive levels.

All the while, the state of Wisconsin and its taxpayers do not want to have to endure significant tax hikes, nor do parents and students want to have to suffer through mounting tuition increases in order to pay for such things as faculty salaries. This institution recently increased tuition $1,000 via the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates, and other modest tuition or educational fee increases may be in store for both undergraduates and graduates in the future. Brad Barham, chair of the Faculty Senate’s University Committee, even noted that student tuition inevitably would be a part of the fixation of this problem.

Yet, between 2001 and 2011, the tuition for resident students more than doubled from $4,089 to $8,987 per year.

In fact, in regards to tuition costs, UW-Madison is the seventh most expensive of the Big 10 public schools in both in-state and out-of-state costs.

Faculty Senate members have also suggested such ideas as implementing incentives to build loyalty among UW-Madison faculty and increasing the number of out-of-state students that are admitted to the school. Nonetheless, members of the Faculty Senate fear that an increase in the pool of nonresident students will cause average test scores and other qualifications to decline.

But the prospect of losing valuable professors and the school inadvertently lowering its admission standards for its nonresident students would have unintentional consequences upon school spirit and academic merit. Such a decision would bode poorly with both current and prospective students.

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It is unfair that this institution is placed squarely in the crossfire of economic hardships and budget shortfalls and that funding for such a prestigious school is difficult. However, UW-Madison must make a choice: keep quality professors and look for funding in ways that may upset students and other University-affiliated individuals, or watch as the school slowly loses its competitive edge.

Ethan is a freshman with an undecided major. Please send all feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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