Low wages deter hires at U. Texas-Arlington, other state universities

By Gretchen Rakiec
The Shorthorn (UT-Arlington Publication)
May 2, 2001

The Faculty Council voted almost unanimously to approve tuition deregulation, with some help from the administration, on Monday, March 17th (More info here).

The University of Texas at Arlington, as part of a trend in Texas public universities and colleges, has problems attracting and retaining faculty members because other states offer more competitive wages, according to a recent survey.

The Texas Faculty Association released results of a survey and a legislative alert asking people to lobby the Legislature for more funds to raise Texas higher education salaries.

According to the National Education Association 2000 Almanac of Higher Education, the average salary in 1998-1999 for four-year public institutions in Texas was $ 51,650, compared to a national average of $ 55,948. The average salary for faculty members at UT-Arlington, including all levels of professors, instructors, teaching assistants and other faculty members, was $ 42,610 for 2000, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

David Silva, Linguistics Program director and associate professor, said he had recent problems with both the retention and hiring of faculty members.

"We had two faculty members who began this year on a leave of absence, and both have subsequently resigned their positions," he said.

Both took positions at the same public university in the Midwest partly as a matter of compensation, he said.

Silva added that in a search to fill those positions, he has been turned down on the two job offers he has made.

"What I confront is people saying to me, 'I would love to come to your university -- your students are great, your program is terrific,' " he said. "The two people who turned us down said this: 'But I can't come to work here with what you're offering me.' "

According to average budgeted salaries information on www.uta.edu/irp, the average salary for a linguistics assistant professor here is $ 34,612, compared to the national average of $ 43,360.

Silva said that as a liberal arts discipline, linguistics has a particularly hard time attracting funding. Disciplines with a market in the private sector, like business, can receive more funding.

"From my perspective, one has to pay a business professor a fairly large salary to prevent that person from just being in the business world," he said.

Science Dean Neal Smatresk said his college has a particularly hard time losing faculty to professional fields.

"It's fairly well known that the state has had difficulty generating the kinds of competitive salaries, particularly in science and engineering, that are needed to entice faculty," he said.

With the help of the administration, though, Dr. Smatresk said the college has been able to offer more competitive starting salaries and start-up packages, which allows new science faculty to equip their laboratories.

Charles Zucker, Texas Faculty Association executive director, said the Legislature needs to respond to the problem by providing more funds for salary increases. He said no specific amount is given to a university to fund those increases.

"The Legislature used to appropriate money specifically for salary increases," he said. "Now they have no plan except to turn the money over to the administrators to do with it what they want to."

Dr. Zucker said that although funds increased during a two-year period that ends Aug. 31, faculty salaries did not reflect that increase.

He said the Texas Faculty Association is doing all it can to encourage faculty members to lobby the Legislature for better funding.

"The basic problem is that the key players in the Legislature don't see any major problems in higher education in regard to faculty," he said. "The low salaries are having an impact on the type of faculty a university like UTA can attract."

Silva said the low salaries also affect the morale of the current faculty.

"It's difficult to think that there are people in our college who have dedicated careers and yet are making considerably below either similar people at other institutions or new hires at UTA in other disciplines," he said.