The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees at their October meeting informed the university community that in order to close one third of a $40.2 million budget shortfall it will place the burden on the students by increasing the cost of tuition yet again.
The university officials attribute this need for a tuition hike to labor contracts with university faculty that have ultimately cost the UConn millions of dollars. UConn CFO Scott Jordan says, “State support hasn’t kept up with negotiated increases.”
The administration points to faculty salaries as the main source of the rise. This is not the case. We agree with administration that declines in state appropriations are a primary cause of the UConn budget shortfall, but there is little evidence to support the claim that faculty salaries and benefits alone are driving up expenses.
The CT Mirror reports that over the last five years the cost of attending UConn to Connecticut residents has increased by 28.3 percent. From 2007-2015 faculty salaries only increased by 4.7% in inflation adjusted terms.
At the national level, inflation adjusted salaries declined by 0.12 percent since the 2008-2009 academic year, while tuition increased by 5.3 percent over the same period. Moreover, the total salaries of those who teach and do research at UConn is barely one third of total UConn expenses.
Another contributing factor to the budget shortfall has gone unmentioned by upper administration: the rise of administration positions and salaries. Top administrators at UCOonn have median salaries of $272,774 per year as of 2014. Over the mere course of two years (2011-2013), this marks an increase of 8.7 percent each year while the number of administrators increased by over 5 percent from 2009-2014.
Faculty negotiated salaries are but a fraction of the cost of university operations and are not the sole contributor or even major contributor to the increase in tuition. In light of these figures, it’s important to consider the vital role of faculty in the lifeblood of a university and a state.
To the students, they are advisors, leaders, educators, confidants, and role models. They write grants, find cures, challenge status-quo thinking, develop creative works, inspire others to think outside the box, and contribute to the growing knowledge economy. To the state, they are taxpayers, economic drivers, experts, parents, and care-takers.
Faculty are not to blame for UCONN’s fiscal challenges, the administration of the university and the state are the culprits.
Chris Henderson is an internal organizer for the University of Connecticut Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.