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The Compensation Gap part 2

13 Oct 2023 6:35 AM | Jim New (Administrator)
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It is a fundamental truth that you can identify an organization’s priorities by looking at its budget. When an organization pays its employees less than what they could earn elsewhere, but still plows resources that could go to compensation into other projects, like a new building or executive perks, it’s not hard to tell where the prosperity and welfare of its workforce falls on that organization’s priority list. Where the faculty rank in NSHE’s priorities will be coming into sharper focus as the Board of Regents awaits a recommendation from its newly formed Committee to Recommend Board Action on FY 2025 Salary Increases. An update from the committee is expected at the October 20 special meeting of the Board.

Already there is a divide. We applaud the campus presidents who have recently declared their support publicly for the full 11% COLA, matching our Classified coworkers and all other state employees. We encourage the other presidents to follow their lead, but there appears to be more organized resistance now than there was in June 2023 when hundreds of academic and administrative faculty made their voices heard, convincing the Board of Regents to approve the full 12% COLA for FY 2024.

Ironically, the greatest resistance is coming from the institutions that saw the greatest growth in their state-allocated funding from the 2023 Nevada Legislature.

State appropriated funds for NSHE formula-funded instructional budgets
Institution *FY2022 *FY2023 **FY2024 **FY2025 Change for biennium
UNLV $180,367,661 $188,138,610 $209,161,530 $212,055,165 $52,710,424 14.30%
UNR $128,307,698 $129,888,921 $141,600,407 $143,604,596 $27,008,384 10.50%
NSC $25,581,096 $25,815,872 $31,014,568 $31,103,180 $10,720,780 20.90%
CSN $100,013,941 $103,622,123 $103,093,245 $103,540,400 $2,986,581 1.50%
GBC $14,130,910 $14,872,388 $14,649,803 $14,718,803 $365,308 1.30%
TMCC 34,327,835 $35,579,629 $35,544,817 $35,698,145 $1,335,498 1.90%
WNC $14,332,707 $14,483,533 $15,766,811 $15,822,790 $2,773,331 9.60%
TOTAL $490,061,848 $512,412,076 $550,831,181 $556,543,047 $97,900,304 9.70%
General fund appropriations only, before COLAs for FY2024 & FY2025. Excludes student fees and tuition.
Excludes professional schools and non-formula budgets.
*FY2022 & FY2023 amounts include state-allocated ARPA funds for positions.
**FY2024 & FY2025 from SB511 plus enrollment recovery funds and WSCH formula adjustments in AB491 and AB494.

It makes one wonder why institutions that saw double-digit growth in their state-allocated funding would be so resistant to applying some of that money to COLA and ensuring that their compensation doesn’t fall further behind the national average for salaries in the market where they compete for talent.

Their arguments against the full 11% adjustments for next year would be easier to swallow if there hadn’t been a growing disparity between salaries at the top versus the rank and file. In The Compensation Gap pt. 1, we described the widening gap between salary schedules for administrators and executives when compared to the schedules for faculty. As we acknowledged there, changes to the salary schedules don’t affect the vast majority of incumbent employees, only those whose salaries fall below the adjusted minimum in the schedule. Otherwise, the beneficiaries are newly hired employees. But as time moves on and natural turnover occurs, the gaps between salary schedules that were widened in 2023 will result in significant disparities by 2028 and beyond.

Recent history, however, shows that compensation growth for incumbent rank and file academic faculty has lagged all other employee classifications, and in the case of executives and senior administrators, it has lagged significantly.

NSHE Employee Class Average Salary
Increase, 11/2021
to 11/2022
Academic 3.9%
Classified 6.3%
Administrative A-D 7.9%
Administrative E 8.7%
Executives 14.8%
Average percentage change of individual salaries for
incumbent NSHE employees by employee class from
November 2021 to November 2022. A 1% COLA was awarded
on 7/1/2022. The salary schedule change on 7/1/2022
affected only incumbents below the new schedule minimums.
Promotions or ad hoc raises account for additional increases.
Compiled from public records by NFA, 10/2023.

Some growth across all classes during the period reflected in the table above can be attributed to a 1% COLA adjustment. Classified staff received annual steps for the first ten years in their grade; for faculty, there was a 1% merit pool distribution. All other growth occurred where incumbent employees were either promoted, or remained in their positions but received an ad hoc raise. An ad hoc raise can occur for one of several reasons. For example, an individual may absorb additional responsibilities due to campus vacancies, another may be equity adjustments. Some may be for individuals who simply found favor from their supervisors. Nonetheless, in the depths of the pandemic-fueled budget crisis, institutions still found adequate funding to provide substantial ad hoc raises.

NSHE Ad Hoc Salary Adjustments*
Institution FY2022 FY2023
CSN $593,784 $282,769
DRI $125,812 $331,999
GBC $68,259
NSU $215,464 $381,417
NSHE Admin $67,036 $150,105
TMCC $92,364 $153,478
UNLV $1,136,924 $1,918,347
UNR $1,939,987 $2,056,406
WNC $102,394 $10,613
TOTAL $4,273,765 $5,353,393
*Base salary adjustments and equity adjustments
for positions with no change in business title.
Excludes cost-of-living adjustments and merit
raises. Includes equity adjustments per collective
bargaining agreements.
Analysis by NFA, 10/2023

While some faculty were the beneficiaries of these ad hoc salary adjustments, the vast majority of recipients were senior administrators and executives. Some ad hoc raises were modest. Some were eye-popping. The table below lists the ten largest individual ad hoc raises at NSHE institutions during each of the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years. One executive's raise at a university is larger than the total of the three largest raises given to faculty in the same year.

Highest NSHE Discretionary Raises (FY2022 and FY2023)
Institution Type Position Employee Class Old Salary New Salary Raise Percent Raise
Universities Interim Vice Dean/Chair Sr. Admin $248,980 $400.000 $151,020 60.7%
NSHE Admin. Associate Vice Chancellor Executive $136,514 $208,942 $72,428 53.1%
Universities Vice President Executive $198,175 $260,000 $61,825 31.2%
NSHE Admin. Chief General Counsel Executive $189,000 $242,938 $53,938 28.5%
Universities Senior Vice President Executive $310,738 $355,000 $44,262 14.2%
Universities Associate Dean Sr. Admin $200,000 $240,000 $40,000 20.0%
Universities Lecturer Faculty $73,772 $113,476 $39,704 53.8%
Universities Professor Faculty $194,185 $233,982 $39,797 20.5%
Universities Professor Faculty $131,404 $170,000 $38,596 29.4%
Universities Vice President Executive $193,659 $229,500 $35,841 18.5%
Universities Executive Vice President/Provost Executive $276,000 $378,750 $102,750 37.2%
Universities Assistant Professor Faculty $324,800 $382,012 $57,212 17.6%
Universities Vice President Executive $244,007 $299,500 $55,493 22.7%
Universities Dean Sr. Admin $220,000 $270,000 $50,000 22.7%
NSHE Admin. Chief General Counsel Executive $216,300 $255,234 $38,934 18.0%
Community Colleges Controller Sr. Admin $98,492 $130,808 $32,316 32.8%
Universities Vice Provost Sr. Admin $164,650 $195,000 $30,350 18.4%
Universities Vice President Executive $226,600 $250,000 $23,400 10.3%
Community Colleges Interim Executive Director Sr. Admin $104,178 $126,511 $22,333 21.4%
Universities Deputy Controller Sr. Admin $137,917 $160,000 $22,083 16.0%
Base salary adjustments and equity adjustments with no change in business title. Excludes clinical and athletics.
Does not include cost-of-living adjustments or merit raises.
Source: NSHE Public Records. Compiled by NFA 10/2023.

A quick scan of this table reveals that Nevada's universities in FY2022 and FY2023 gave out more of the top ad hoc raises to incumbent employees than the other institutions and those raises went primarily to executives and senior administrators.

It should surprise no one that faculty feel misused when they hear renewed austerity may prevent them from sharing in the largess. We understand that institutions face significant challenges finding the funding in their budgets to pay the full COLA, but we don't believe they are insurmountable.

In a letter to the Committee to Recommend Board Action on FY 2025 Salary Increases, NFA offers our rationale in support of the full 11% COLA. We also offer several recommendations to help ease the budget impact, such as limiting COLA for the highest paid executives and senior administrators, utilizing reserve accounts until registration fee increases catch up, and mandating that at least 80% of student fee revenue be allocated to the state operating budget in support of employee compensation, just to name a few.

Despite our best efforts, though, we know the most effective tools we have at our disposal are faculty voices. Last June, hundreds of faculty members, despite the summer break, responded to our call to speak out for the FY 2024 COLA. It is difficult for Regents to ignore when over 60 rank and file faculty members show up at one meeting to make their case in the public comment period. If we fail to turn out similar or better numbers when the FY 2025 COLA is on the Board's agenda, they will likely assume that we are satisfied with our prior pay bump and will be happy with whatever they approve. We must keep the passion on display.

Between now and that meeting, we encourage all faculty to call, email, or visit the Regent representing your district. Encourage them to approve the full 11% and to consider policy changes that prioritize employee compensation over spending for special projects and unproven initiatives. Most importantly, watch for the COLA proposal on the agenda for an upcoming Board meeting and plan to attend to make a public comment in support of the full amount. Besides the meeting on October 20, a special meeting is scheduled on November 1, and the quarterly meeting will be held November 30/December 1 in Las Vegas. We believe the decision will be made at the quarterly meeting, but we will keep the members notified if anything changes.

The COLA passed by the 2023 Nevada Legislature, and signed by Governor Lombardo, are legitimately historic. There will not be another opportunity for many years, if not decades, for our salaries to recover from the extended period of stagnation. We cannot afford to let this pass us by. At least, not without a fight.

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