Low faculty salaries are making it hard for the university to recruit and retain professors at a rate comparable to their peers.
As other universities have been able to comfortably expand their faculty size, MU has been under pressure to make sure the university can retain its best faculty.
Budget Director Tim Rooney said faculty salaries are not reaching the rate of inflation. He said the post-9/11 economic downturn had an effect on the university's salary increases, especially because of the decreasing amount of money coming from the state legislature.
"During that time, when other people were continuing to give at least inflationary increases, we were not, so it caused us to drop in comparison to our peers," Rooney said.
MU is one of 34 universities in the public division of the Association of American Universities. The AAU, which is composed of the leading research universities in the U.S. and Canada, ranked MU 33 out of 34 for its faculty pay in fall 2006. Only the University of Oregon ranked lower.
Faculty salaries at MU averaged $74,549 that year, compared to the $92,951 average of AAU public universities. From 2002 to 2006, salaries at MU increased by 10.8 percent, while AAU public universities averaged an increase of 14 percent.
Provost Brian Foster said MU faculty salaries in 2001 were around the median of those offered by other AAU public universities. He said the inability of the state to reach the amount of appropriations it was giving in 2001 has made it difficult for the university to compete with its peers.
"In that environment, it is hard to keep up with other schools that are moving forward faster in increasing compensation," Foster said.
As MU attempts to increase its faculty pay, other universities are also doing so. Foster said the universities MU competes with to attract faculty are strong competition.
"MU is a nationally prominent, well-positioned institution and for the kind of research and rigorous education we do, we compete with the very best schools in the country," Foster said.
Rooney said MU implemented the Compete Missouri financial plan this year to increase faculty salaries while also balancing the university's fiscal budget.
Rooney said the plan would help the university achieve 7 percent faculty salary increases for three years. The plan focuses on where the university can save money by not filling certain faculty positions.
"We knew last year which positions were open, (the department deans) were wanting to recruit, and we said we were going to keep open some of those positions, which would have started September this last month," Rooney said. "We captured those dollars and used those dollars to help give faculty increases."
Prior to Compete Missouri's creation, Nikki Krawitz, UM system finance and administration vice president, said a study showed MU would need about $11.9 million to increase faculty salaries to a better level.
In order to come up with the money, MU planned to split the sum in half with the state over a three-year period. In the first year, the university would pay a little less than $2 million while the state would pay the same amount. That same process would continue for the next two years until MU would have $11.9 million.
But Krawitz said the state could not fund its portion for the first year. Therefore, UM system campuses had to come up with both their funding and the funding that the state promised for the first year thanks to cost savings in some areas.
MU Faculty Council Chairman Tom Phillips said he wishes MU did not need Compete Missouri, but it is the university's best available option to combat faculty salary stagnation.
Phillips said so far stagnation has hurt morale among MU faculty due to the introduction of salary compression.
Salary compression is when new employees are brought into a company with equal or higher salaries than the people who are already working there. At MU, salary compression can occur when the university is competing against other schools to hire the same individual at a competitive salary.
"You can have people who have been here six or 10 years making almost as much money, or slightly more money, as an incoming assistant professor," Phillips said.
While MU works to avoid salary compression, Phillips said the university is also trying to fend off others who are offering competitive salaries to some of the university's best faculty during a time of increased enrollment.
He said because classes have gotten bigger and the faculty has more teaching requirements, the university does not want to hurt the quality of its education.
"Faculty are working harder and more efficiently, but there comes to be a point where it starts to hurt the quality of education," Phillips said. "You have fewer small classes and less opportunity for the faculty to do the one-on-one type of mentoring that they do."