Pay raise plan greeted with little enthusiasm


After no pay raises in fiscal year 2020-21, many Pitt faculty and staff are in line to receive salary increases of 1 to 1.5 percent in September, depending on their current wages, with the possibility of another 0.25 percent for merit, market or equity reasons. But those at the highest salary levels will get no maintenance increases.

“While these adjustments cannot compensate for the flexibility and extraordinary efforts of our faculty and staff demonstrated last year, it represents our efforts to acknowledge their tremendous work with more focused increases directed to faculty and staff based on income,” Hari Sastry, Pitt’s chief financial officer, said at the Board of Trustees Budget Committee meeting on July 13.

The University’s budget, which also includes tuition hikes and a 1 percent across the board cut, was approved this week by the Budget and Executive committees of the board (see related story on the overall budget).

The approved salary increases will be applied progressively to all faculty and staff who have performed at a satisfactory level or higher in the past year, according to an email from Sastry and David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations. The breakdown of annual base pay to maintenance salary increase is:

$48,470 or less: 1.5 percent increase

Over $48,470 to $96,940: 1.4 percent

Over $96,940 to $145,410: 1 percent

Over $145,410: No maintenance increase

Additionally, a 0.25 percent pool is available for merit, market or equity increases, to be determined by each responsibility center’s leadership.

Salary increases will be included in the Sept. 30 pay (if paid monthly) or Sept. 10 (if paid biweekly), but will be retroactive to July 1, 2021.

Even with the salary increases, the amount spent on non-medical school and restricted/research total compensation will go down from $715.5 million to $701 million. This may reflect the 453 staff and 55 faculty members who chose to take the University’s retirement deals last year.

New Senate President Robin Kear, who has been a faculty-at-large member of the University Planning and Budgeting Committee (UPBC) for the past two years, acknowledged that “Pitt’s budget was again determined in a difficult and challenging year.”

“Last year in the UPBC, we had no choices due to the pandemic’s impact. This year, the difficult discussions that we had in the UPBC were about choosing between tough outcomes, with no great choices,” she said. “I am sure that the modest salary pool and tuition increases will be disappointing to many, and I know how hard we have all worked to get through the last year to keep Pitt above water and moving forward. We are hopeful that future budget years will bring salary increases to a higher percentage and closer to inflation.”

Angie Coldren, the recently elected Staff Council president, agreed that there were no great options for this year’s budget decision, “but I believe UPBC made the best decision they could.”

“The modest salary and merit increase percentages are disappointing though, especially with no salary increases given last year,” she said. “I am hopeful that future budgets and increase percentages will better reflect the hard work of the employees of the University.”

Tyler Bickford, chair of the Senate’s Budget Policy committee and one of the 10 faculty representatives on the UPBC, said, “Allocating raises progressively is good, but the total salary pool is still way too small to catch up lower-paid faculty to our peers or to adequately support staff taking on increasing responsibilities during the pandemic.

“Since additional cuts mean that we won’t be able to hire to replace vacancies, faculty and staff will have to take on more work just to keep our units afloat. And just as a cut one year is baked into the next year’s budget, those increased workloads will be baked into everyone’s jobs as the new normal,” he said. “While it’s fair to blame the Commonwealth for some of this, those increased workloads look like ‘efficiency’ on a budget spreadsheet, and it is not clear to me that the central administration understands the urgency of this situation for frontline faculty and staff. We’re the frog in the boiling water, and we need to jump out.”

In June, the state legislature passed a budget that for the second year contained flat funding for the state-related universities, which include Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln. Penn State’s budget, which was approved on July 15, has a 2 percent pool for merit-based employee salary adjustments as well as contractual salary increases. Many of Temple’s salaries are set by union contract.

In a Tweet posted shortly after the budget was announced, Lauren Collister, director of the Office of Scholarly Communication & Publishing in the University Library System who has been active with the faculty unionization effort, expressed her frustration with the pay raises: “1.25%. What a punch to the gut. After a year of pivoting, of colleagues putting themselves at risk during a pandemic, of doing ‘more with less’ thanks to early retirement. 1.25% salary raises and a tuition hike. Inflation in the U.S. is 5.4%.”

Faculty and staff can learn more about eligibility requirements and get answers to frequently asked compensation questions by reviewing salary administration resources.  For other questions or concerns, reach out to your immediate supervisor or contact the University’s Office of Human Resources.    

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


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