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October 27, 2011

What drives lower pay for lower-level Pitt faculty?

Low state support is driving faculty salary challenges at Pitt, University administrators told Senate budget policies committee members Oct. 21 in response to assertions by BPC chair John J. Baker that high tuition discounts to out-of-state students were having a negative effect on faculty pay.

Baker presented his analysis of data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) at the committee’s Sept. 30 meeting, contending that low faculty pay could in turn negatively affect the University’s ability to fulfill its mission. (See Oct. 13 University Times.)

BPC did not discuss Baker’s report in depth at the Sept. 30 meeting, and administrators requested time to review and respond to Baker’s analysis.

David DeJong, vice provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management, took Baker to task for not sharing the Sept. 30 report in advance to allow administrators and committee members time to review and prepare to discuss it during the meeting.

“That strikes me as running counter to advancing our academic mission. I don’t think that that’s productive,” he said.

Before DeJong presented some calculations prepared by the administration, Baker recapped his earlier report, noting it was designed to explain why salaries for low-ranking faculty at Pitt were at or near the bottom of the pay scale of public members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). In examining IPEDS data, “I noticed that Pitt’s net tuition per [full-time-equivalent student] was below its published in-state tuition rate, and I got curious about that,” Baker said. (According to his analysis, Pitt’s 2008-09 net tuition per FTE student was $12,753 while its published in-state undergraduate tuition was $13,642.)

“I tried to identify factors affecting why salaries were low,” he said, citing three:  “We do have a low number of FTE students compared to the AAU public schools’ average,” he said. “We presumably make up for that because we have higher tuition and fees … and the state appropriation.”

(In his original report, Baker noted that Pitt’s fall 2009 FTE enrollment of nearly 28,000 was smaller than the average of more than 33,500 among its AAU public peers, and that its published 2008-09 Pittsburgh campus in-state tuition of $13,642 was higher than the peer institutions’ average of $7,797.)

Another factor, he said: “We have more faculty and staff than most of the other public AAU universities,” noting Pitt still is bigger even after medical school faculty are subtracted from the numbers. “Presumably that reflects the research function of this University,” Baker said.

A third factor he said he identified was “a very high proportion of tuition discounts from unrestricted revenue. … If you compare Pitt to a lot of these other public AAU universities, we’re really very high in terms of our tuition discounts from unrestricted revenue.” Using IPEDS data, “I discovered most of the total federal, total state, local, total institutional aid for freshman students, most of it was going to out-of-state students. Pitt’s very unusual in that regard.”

Administrators cautioned about using IPEDS data for such peer comparisons, noting that the University doesn’t use the data as a basis for its benchmarking models.

Chief Financial Officer Arthur J. Ramicone said IPEDS figures are “reported on a good-faith basis,” adding that they are not audited by the U.S. Department of Education, which collects the data, and that institutions have leeway in interpreting what figures to report — all of which make comparisons difficult.

“Our basic position is that tuition discounting is not the reason why faculty salaries are challenged. It’s the lack of commonwealth support, period. …That’s our challenge,” Ramicone said, reiterating that Pitt’s current state appropriation has been reduced to 1995 levels.

Faculty pay

DeJong said the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC) put stable working conditions and salary issues among its top priorities. “When you look over the past several years, you see many, many of our peer institutions resorting to layoffs and furloughs to balance their budgets. We have not had to do that,” he said, pointing as well to a 2 percent salary pool increase amid double-digit cuts to Pitt’s fiscal year 2012 state appropriation.

“The administration is very committed to maintaining competitive salaries not just for faculty, but also for our very dedicated staff, and in the face of our of fiscal challenges, we are still working to generate improvements.”

DeJong added that the University has made efforts over the past decade to improve salaries and contract positions for non-tenure stream faculty.

“We’ve worked hard to convert part-time positions into full-time positions and to convert short-term visiting positions into full-time or longer-term positions that have the possibility of renewal, in response to excellent performance,” he said, adding that in Arts and Sciences areas alone, last year several dozen visiting positions were converted to long-term non-tenure stream positions with salary increases.

“That doesn’t leave us satisfied with where we are,” DeJong said. “We certainly recognize that there’s more work to do but we are dedicated to the maintenance of competitive salaries and we will continue to be.”

DeJong elaborated on some details of his Sept. 30 closed-session report on the administration’s analysis of whether salaries for longstanding Pitt faculty were keeping up with inflation. (See Oct. 13 University Times.)

The report followed salaries over time for three cohorts of faculty who were at Pitt, 1995-2010, and found that salaries:

• For assistant professors who, by 2010, had become full professors, 82 percent of the 127 from the Pittsburgh campus had exceeded inflation, as did all 12 from the regional campuses.

• For associate professors who had been promoted to full professor by 2010, 91 percent of the 157 in Pittsburgh and all eight from the regional campuses exceeded inflation.

• A third group of faculty who had been full professors for the entire 15-year period showed that 74 percent of the 223 in Pittsburgh and 89 percent of the nine regional faculty members in the group exceeded inflation.

Employee numbers

DeJong spoke to the issue of faculty and staff numbers, noting that Pitt far exceeds most of the AAU public schools in research output, ranking No. 4 in National Institutes of Health funding (behind Michigan, Washington University in St. Louis and Berkeley) and sixth in total government funding.

“Relative to the AAU average, we’re way off the charts and that’s going to make our [employee]counts high,” he said.

DeJong presented a chart prepared by the University, comparing Pittsburgh campus FTE employees, excluding medicine, with the AAU median. (DeJong told the University Times later that he preferred using the median, rather than an average, to provide a more accurate statistic.)

The Pittsburgh campus’s FTE instruction, research and public service faculty of 2,005 excluding medicine, ranks No. 14, below the AAU median of 2,192, DeJong said. With 453 executives/administrators/management employees, the campus ranks No. 25, below the AAU median of 349. Pitt ranks No. 15 in other professionals with 2,737, below the median of 2,921, No. 6 in non-professionals with 1,284, below the median of 2,623, according to the University’s figures. Overall, he said, the campus was No. 13 with 6,480, below the median of 8,085.

“To say in [Baker’s] report we are high relative to the AAU publics, when you exclude medicine, is not true,” DeJong said.

BPC pro-tem committee member Linda Rinaman commented, “some of these schools are half our size, some are twice our size.” She asked for enrollment to be factored into the equation. DeJong agreed to follow up on her request.

Tuition discounts

DeJong addressed tuition discounts, noting they too were a UPBC priority. “It’s true we have made a point, particularly in the difficult economy we’re facing, to be sensitive to meeting the need of our students. We do meet a higher proportion of need than some of our other competitors,” he said.

However, he called into question Baker’s analysis, which used IPEDS data to calculate the average tuition after discounts for first time undergraduates as $10,897 for in-state students (80 percent of the published in-state rate of $13,642) and $13,943 for out-of state students (60 percent of the published out-of-state rate of $23,290) in 2008-09.

DeJong said Baker’s additional assertion that out-of-state freshmen paid only about $300 above published in-state tuition rates failed to account for several factors, including the fact that federal, state and local government aid cuts students’ tuition bills while still counting as revenue to the University. While institutional aid is provided by Pitt, the other categories, which include Pell and PHEAA grants, “obviously reduce the financial burden to the students of attending Pitt, but that’s money for us, revenue for us that we use to finance academic programs,” he said.

He also expressed concern about Baker’s analysis that calculated tuition discounts (for all students) from unrestricted funds at more than $109.6 million. “The institutional funding that’s reported there is a combination of aid that we provide to undergraduate students as well as graduate and professional students including students in the medical school who don’t even show up in our budget on the lower campus. This paints a highly misleading picture because of three things: First of all, we know the funding models for graduate and professional students are completely different from funding models for undergraduate students. Second of all, we know that graduate and professional school students come disproportionately from out of state. And third of all, at Pitt, we’ve got a disproportionately high number of graduate and professional students relative to the AAU publics.”

DeJong presented a net undergraduate tuition calculation, weighted for in-state and out-of-state students, that showed overall net undergraduate tuition averaged $14,058 at Pitt in FY11. “After we discount institutionally financed aid to our undergraduates, we’re the third most-expensive school among the AAU publics,” he said.

“The impression you get from the [Baker] report is violently at odds with this calculation,” he said.

Although DeJong distributed a list of net tuition figures the administration calculated for the AAU peers, he said some were based on “guesstimates” to account for multiple ways the institutions define their student populations. “Fact books are very different across institutions. Some institutions, like us, have a very clear dichotomy between what our undergraduate, in- and out-of-state numbers are; some institutions — there were a couple we just couldn’t find anything on for what they were, so we excluded them — other institutions do in- and out-of-state based on total populations including graduate populations and we know that those are not representative, so we had to do some work to try to figure out what the ratios look like for undergrads. We had to make a couple of approximations.”

He also presented an institutional funding model the administration uses in comparison with a dozen peer and aspirational peer schools that includes Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Virginia and Penn State.

The schools were identified only by a letter of the alphabet, rather than by name. The reason for hiding their identities was that while some of the data were publicly available, some come from surveys the University administers. “They respond under the guarantee that we provide that we will not reveal their data specifically,” DeJong said.

Pitt’s out-of-state tuition and fees for all students, graduate and undergraduate, for FY09 was $23,200, fifth-highest in the group. Adjusting for institutionally financed scholarships and financial aid averaging $1,200 per student and a $7,500 in-state student tuition differential, Pitt ranked sixth in the group, with tuition averaging $14,500. Factoring in the relative effect of per-student state appropriations “is where we get destroyed,” he said. When adjusted for state support of $4,500 per student, Pitt ranked No. 11 — third-lowest among the peer group, with an adjusted average tuition of about $20,000.

“It’s not our financial aid policies that are causing us a challenge in funding our undergraduate and professional programs, our academic programs. It’s the amount of money we’re getting from the commonwealth, and that’s not shocking news.”

Part-time teaching

Baker’s Sept. 30 report cited FY10 Snyder Report data submitted to the state, which indicated that one-third of FTE faculty are part time and that they taught 42 percent of the total classroom student credit hours.

In response, DeJong said the report is “very, very misleading” in terms of showing the number of classes taught by part-time faculty. “Every credit hour that we offer has to show up in that report somehow or other,” he said. Recitation sessions taught by graduate students, wellness program offerings, study abroad and courses associated with Pitt’s college in high school program all show up as student credit hours taught by part-time faculty, he said.

“Eighty-two percent of our instructional faculty are assistant, associate or full professors and they are teaching between 70-75 percent of the courses,” DeJong said.

What’s next?

Lacking a quorum, BPC took no action on the information presented, but members suggested finding ways to better understand the University’s goals and directions in terms of its student population, rather than debating data sources and their analyses.

Committee member Michael Spring said, “Every number we use gets qualified about 15 ways,” making it difficult to analyze the issues. But he said he found the discussion healthy even amid the discrepancies in data. More productive, he suggested, would be to better understand the University’s intended direction. “Do we want to increase the number of out-of-state students? Do we want to increase the international students? How do we want to view this? I think these are all good and healthy questions.”

Baker told the University Times he expects additional discussion at BPC’s next meeting,  set for 12:10 p.m. Nov. 11. The location, typically 512 CL, had not been confirmed at press time.

In other business, DeJong also responded to a concern that some administrators had not notified employees about their salary increases in a timely manner, nor were all informing employees of their right to request salary reconsiderations.

He said he would discuss with Ronald Frisch, associate vice chancellor for Human Resources, the merits of issuing a reminder when each year’s salary pool announcement is made. DeJong said some unit leaders were surprised there was a salary increase this year, which he said could have affected the timeliness of the notifications.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 44 Issue 5

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