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Disconcerting Truth Hidden in Chamber Study Data

02 Mar 2011 10:18 AM | Anonymous

Frank Daniels (a Nevada Faculty Alliance member from Great Basin College) analyzes the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce study on public service worker compensation and finds that Nevada higher education faculty have fallen farther behind the national average between 2008 and 2010, before the latest round of furloughs (and the anticipated next round of across-the-board salary reductions) are calculated.

Moreover, Daniels finds, the Chamber of Commerce study does not address benefits, which for Nevada faculty were already a significantly lower percentage of total compensation (21 percent) than the national average for higher ed faculty (27 percent, according to the American Association of University Professors annual report) .

Daniels crunches the numbers in the study and finds the following:

• The central result of the study is being reported by the media as Nevada public-sector employees having salaries that rank ninth overall in the nation.

• This number is rather misleading already, because it is based on raw numerical value, not taking into account purchasing power, i.e., differing standards of living in the different states. (Most people use their salary primarily to buy things – rather than compare the numerical value – so a higher dollar-value salary in a higher-cost state may be a less valuable salary in terms of purchasing power.)

The details about education are more interesting for our purposes:

• Whereas the salary for the average K-12 teacher went up during the period of the study (2008-2010), the salary of the average college instructor was diminished by 1.1 percent. While the salary of the typical K-12 instructor in Nevada in 2009 was 96.4 percent of the mean salary across all the states, the salary of the typical college instructor was 90.5 percent of the average professor's salary in the USA.

• Salaries for Nevada instructional faculty ranked 33rd in the nation in 2009, placing us not only below the mean salary, but also well below the median of state rankings.

• In fact – and this is disconcerting – of the 32 classifications of public employees in the study, not only are Nevada’s college instructors ranked the lowest of any category of Nevada worker in comparison to national norms, but no other class of public service employee in Nevada is ranked any lower than 19th in the nation.

• If we look only at state-funded salaries, the numbers for NSHE are even lower. Excluding all faculty paid by sources other than state dollars, average salary for Nevada college instructors falls to 89.8 percent of the average professor's salary in the USA and our national ranking falls to 34th in the nation.

• And just as Nevada has the lowest percent of government employees (only 4.37 percent of all state employees work in the public sector), Nevada has fewer per capita faculty than most other states.

• So, NV is spending a significantly lower portion of its public dollars – and of its total state income – on higher education faculty than any other state.

These statistics raise a very profound question about why the governor is proposing cutting salaries when we already are below national averages. These data, plus the deterioration of the health plan, make it hard to attract and retain faculty. Not to mention, if the Governor’s budget proposal is implemented, hundreds more faculty and staff will be laid off – and the share of state resources invested in higher education will drop even more.

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