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September 29, 2016

Salary benchmark schools for 3 regionals reconsidered

johnstown,UPJ, sign, flag


A University Senate subcommittee, in conjunction with the Office of the Provost, has been working over the summer to modify the peer group used to benchmark faculty salaries at Pitt-Bradford, Pitt-Greensburg and Pitt-Johnstown.

A half-dozen potential peer groups were presented to the Senate’s budget policies committee (BPC) as Amanda Brodish of the Office of the Provost and University Senate President Frank Wilson outlined what’s been done to date.

greensburg signThe current peer group, grudgingly accepted by faculty in 2010 after a lengthy and contentious process, aggregates salaries at the three Pitt campuses and compares them to a peer group of Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education category IIB schools (four-year institutions characterized by an emphasis on undergraduate baccalaureate-level education, as opposed to graduate degrees) in the three AAUP regions bordering Pennsylvania. (See March 4, 2010, University Times.) Pitt-Titusville, a two-year school, is not included in the comparison group.

bradford Sign 2Critics have argued that the regionals’ current peer group is too large — it encompasses more than 200 schools, including some as far away as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — and too diverse, including private-independent, church-related and proprietary schools in addition to public institutions.

“Those who’ve seen the salary reports for regional faculty salaries know how very little it reveals,” said BPC chair Beverly Gaddy, a faculty member at Pitt-Greensburg. “It doesn’t tell you very much because of the way it’s been reported.”

She said that regional campus faculty “are very interested in developing a peer report that would be meaningful to us and that would enable us to keep up with our competitors as far as the salaries we’re offering.”

As for the summer’s progress, Wilson told BPC, “It’s been a productive process that isn’t over, but we’ve gotten pretty far in a relatively short period of time.”

He elaborated: “We agreed in the very beginning to try as objectively as we could to try to come up with a reasonable benchmarking list for regional campus faculty” in the renewed discussions. Faculty and the administration “both came to the conclusion that the Carnegie classification scheme is a good starting point.”

It also was agreed that basing the report on federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data would be more versatile than the current source, the Association of American University Professors annual salary report.

“It’s a richer database if this becomes our standard — then we can develop a benchmarking system that then goes beyond simply the annual average salaries,” Wilson said.


A half-dozen possible peer groups, ranging from 36 to 139 schools, have been identified. All fall under the Carnegie basic classification of baccalaureate colleges (institutions where baccalaureate or higher degrees represent at least 50 percent of all degrees but where fewer than 50 master’s degrees or 20 doctoral degrees were awarded)

Proposed were:

• A group of 139 schools, consisting of public and private not-for-profit baccalaureate colleges in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.

• A group of 127 public and private not-for-profit baccalaureate schools in those eight states, excluding those with primary profession focus.

• A “western peer group” of 63 public and private not-for-profit baccalaureate colleges, excluding those with primary profession focus, in those eight states, but limited to the geographic area west of Juniata College in central Pennsylvania.

• A “northwestern peer group” of 44 public and private not-for-profit baccalaureate colleges, excluding those with primary profession focus, in those eight states, but limited to the geographic area west of Juniata College and north of Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia.

Brodish said the geographic cuts were “somewhat arbitrary,” adding that the western group eliminates some high-cost areas such as Philadelphia and New York City, “where we don’t necessarily compete for students and faculty,” and the northwestern group rules out some Virginia institutions in lower-cost areas that are farther south than where the regionals compete for faculty and students.

• A group of 48 public and private not-for-profit baccalaureate colleges in those eight states that fall into the three undergraduate instructional program categories that match Pitt’s three regional campuses: “Arts and sciences plus professions, no graduate coexistence,” matching Pitt-Greensburg; “Balanced arts and sciences/professions, no graduate coexistence,” matching Pitt-Johnstown; and “professions plus arts and sciences, no graduate coexistence,” matching-Pitt Bradford.

• A group of 36 public baccalaureate schools in those eight states, excluding those with primary profession focus.

Wilson acknowledged, “The logic we agreed on, which made sense, is not the only plausible way to construct a benchmarking list.”

Wilson noted that the initial proposals “stuck to a defensible approach” without cherry-picking institutions, but noted that some schools that are the Pitt regionals’ competitors aren’t on the proposed lists. “It would be appropriate to negotiate some to add or subtract once we got a basic list,” he said.

BPC will continue the discussion at its October meeting.

In other business:

• Among BPC’s goals this year are obtaining a fuller report on part-time faculty salaries and addressing the salary appeal process for faculty and staff, Gaddy said. “The current process, where in some units you appeal to the person who made the decision, is probably not adequate,” she said.

Gaddy said the committee expects to receive the gender equity salary report this year. An annual report on salary increases for continuing faculty is expected this fall.

• Kathleen Hansell-Prigg has joined BPC as a nonvoting representative of the Staff Association Council.

• BPC’s future meetings have yet to be set. Committee members will be polled to determine possible meeting dates and times.

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 3

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