Merit-based compensation increase for USHE employees crucial to remaining competitive in a national market

A 3% merit-based compensation increase (and a 7.3% health increase) is the top budget priority for the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE). Competitive compensation allows USHE to hire—and maintain—the best talent for Utah college students.

Utah competes in a national marketplace for faculty talent. The average compensation for USHE faculty and staff is consistently lower than similar institutions nationwide, putting Utah at a distinct disadvantage when trying to recruit faculty and staff to the state. In fact, compensation is not just lower than similar institutions across the country: it is below the market median, meaning that Utah lags behind the very middle of what institutions are paying nationally.

% USHE Faculty Salaries Are Below the Market Median, by Type of Institution

There are consistent stories from across Utah’s higher ed system of losing top faculty to other states, as these individuals are able to be compensated at considerably higher rates outside of Utah. The following examples were presented to the Utah Legislature’s Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee during the 2016 Legislative Session.

The University of Utah lost top chemistry faculty to other states, who were able to provide a salary $35,000 higher than what the U could. This resulted in the loss of a $2.5 million grant for the U, in addition to one of their top faculty. In addition, recent offers from other universities and medical settings have offered the U’s nursing faculty salaries $30,000 to $60,000 higher than their current rate. One of the U’s biological anthropologists left for another offer out of state, nearly doubling his salary in the move.

Utah Valley University finds it a challenge to keep faculty in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and business fields, and said that it is not uncommon to lose employees for offers of $10,000 or more. And this extends not just to faculty, but to other support staff as well: UVU has a high rate of turnover in their custodial department, and UVU has lost key IT personnel for offers of over $50,000 more than what UVU was able to pay.

At Snow College, faculty from the following departments have left to take higher paying opportunities elsewhere: Business, English, Music, Geography, Math, Biology, Chemistry, History, and Nursing.

It is crucial that Utah receive this compensation increase in order to be able to compete nationally for top talent. Students at Utah public higher ed institutions deserve to be educated by the top minds in the country.