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UW-L Sees Challenging Time for Retaining, Recruiting Faculty

August 2, 2008

By KJ Lang, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Aug. 2–The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, like other schools in the UW-System, has trouble recruiting and retaining faculty because its salaries have not kept pace with comparable institutions across the nation.

Full professors at UW-L earned an average of $74,900 during the 2007-08 academic year, while faculty at other public master’s institutions across the nation earned about $10,000 more, according to the American Association of University Professors. Bill Colclough, dean of UW-L’s School of Business Administration, has experienced some of the challenges of competing nationally for a dwindling pool of business faculty. The college not only competes with other schools, Colclough said, but with business and industry.

Not many people are willing to invest the money and the three to four years of full-time study it takes to earn a doctorate in business when they often can earn comparable salaries in industry with a master’s degree, said Bruce May, associate dean for UW-L’s College of Business.

In the past six years, UW-System faculty salaries have risen about 2 percent compared with 4 percent to 5 percent nationally, Colclough said, which also makes retaining and attracting people tougher.

“The task of recruiting and retaining faculty is more difficult during periods when the state budgets don’t provide adequate support for higher education,” Colclough said.

As a result of the demand for doctorate faculty, some positions opened through retirements in the past three to four years in the College of Business Administration have remained unfilled, Colclough said.

The challenges are faced in other parts of the university, too.

Carmen Wilson, special assistant to the chancellor, has seen several UW-L faculty members leave over the summer. In one case, she said, the faculty member received a 20 percent increase in salary.

“There are things that would keep them here more than the money, but not that much more money,” she said.

The UW System has made efforts to get more funding for education and specifically faculty salary increases with mixed results at best, said UW Regent Brent Smith.

In the 2007-08, UW-L received $98,000 from the state specifically for recruitment

and retention of faculty, said Bob Hetzel, UW-L vice chancellor for administration and finance.

“Those funds are helpful, but we still need a great deal more to be truly competitive,” said UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow.

In an era of dwindling state money, raising tuition is really the only other realistic approach, Gow said.

“We want to keep the university affordable, but if our quality is declining then that is no bargain for students,” he said.

Viterbo University

Viterbo University had 15 faculty positions open during the past academic year, said Barbara Gayle, academic vice president at Viterbo. The university has filled 14 of them and is looking for a specialized candidate for the final position.

“Because I don’t have empty positions to fill, I think Viterbo has managed to be a competitive private, Catholic college for faculty,” she said.

Faculty at Viterbo don’t earn as much as their counterparts at UW-L because UW-L is larger and is funded partly by public dollars, said Gayle. Viterbo is funded by tuition and its endowment, she said.

Among 52 schools that Viterbo finds comparable, Viterbo pays above average for assistant professors, associate and full professors, Gayle said.

But it is not just about salaries, she said. Many faculty choose a small, private institutions like Viterbo because of the relationships they are able to make with students in a classroom of 20 versus 200, she said.

“It is really rewarding to see yourself as part of the process of student success from seeing them as freshman in your class to watching them walk across the stage four years later and they are mature, knowledgeable, and you’ve invested in that student,” she said.

KJ Lang can be reached at (608) 791-8226 or klang@lacrossetribune.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

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