Tuition increase could affect faculty salaries

A tuition increase for the 2012 academic year could be used to pay professors more.
UM system President Gary Forsee addresses a crowd Wednesday morning in Jesse Auditorium. The town hall meeting gave a general update on the university and on the continuing discussions of employees' retirement benefits.

MU professors receive the lowest salaries of any school in the Association of American Universities, said Betsy Rodriguez, UM system vice president of human resources.

“We did no salary increase this year, thinking that most people would do the same and we might move up slightly,” Rodriguez said in a Board of Curators meeting Monday. “But in fact, many of the AAU institutions did do a moderate salary increase, and we are definitely still at the bottom of that group.”

Missouri Students Association President Tim Noce said low salaries affect the happiness of professors, which has a direct impact on how students are educated.

“I’m not going to say every professor bases how they educate with how they get paid, but that is an underlying factor,” Noce said. “That will help us get some of the better faculty members, if you pay them a competitive salary.”

Benefit packages for professors are also lacking.

“Our benefits are average," Rodriguez said. "They are not high, and I think there was a misperception for a while there that our benefits were better than average. But in terms of our peers and in terms of the value of our benefits, we are average.”

There might be a solution to the low salary and mediocre benefits given to professors, though it is unpopular with students —- the possibility of a tuition increase.

UM system President Gary Forsee held a town hall meeting Wednesday and explained the in-state tuition increase set for the 2012 academic year.

“The last two years, we’ve held the in-state undergraduate tuition flat in order to send a message to parents and students that we get it, we understand the pressure that you’re under,” Forsee said. “But we’ve also sent a very clear message for the fiscal year 2012 that there will be a tuition increase beyond that core inflationary index.”

Forsee said the UM system’s main goal is to provide accessible and affordable higher education across the state, and even with this tuition increase, that goal will remain at the top of its list.

“Obviously we have to keep in balance this issue, accessibility and affordability, but we will be going forward for the first time in three years with that tuition increase,” Forsee said.

Noce said he expects many students to have a negative reaction when the tuition goes up in two years.

“We haven’t had an increase in tuition in a long time, but some students are going to be pretty irritated,” Noce said. “Other students are going to think it’s natural progression. Inflation has gone up, but tuition hasn’t.”

Noce said even though this decision could increase the burden on students and their families, the money could end up helping to increase professor salaries.

“If you increase tuition, that money will go to the university,” Noce said. “It will fill the gap from that money we’re losing. That would allow for possible professors to get a raise, and that could help education.”

Noce said students might be in favor of tuition increases if the result of those increases means more resources for them.

“If the student is getting a few more resources, they may be willing to pay a few extra dollars,” Noce said. “I think students would be more than willing to accept that if they were seeing those resources put before them in a timely manner.”

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