Sanford announces plan to increase pay for professors

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In his state of the University Address, President Sanford laid plans for increasing the salaries of faculty members as well as plans for renovations on campus. Photo courtesy of Peter Burleigh.

In the recent state of the university address, President Jonathan Sanford announced that all regular faculty, both tenure and tenure tracked, will receive an increase in pay, including a 4% raise for all employees. 

The University of Dallas will be paying its faculty greater than 55% of the other institutions against which it is compared.

Next year, library faculty, affiliate faculty, staff and adjuncts will receive pay increases as well. 

In the state of the university address, Sanford spoke of UD’s calling to be the premiere Catholic liberal arts university in the country and the ways in which that calling can be better fulfilled. Sanford said that one place to start is with the UD community. “What we’re investing in right now are people, first and foremost,” he said.

Sanford has long recognized the issue of faculty salaries, and now that UD is in a more stable financial position, efforts to increase pay can be realized. 

“It’s really important to pay people well, particularly those who have weathered the storms and really are excellent,” said Sanford.

About 12 months ago, initiated by Sanford, UD established a compensation committee to study the university’s long-standing compensation issues. The committee decided that historically the university had not compensated faculty up to an appropriate benchmark. 

Using national salary surveys in higher education put together by the College and University Professional Association, or CUPA, the committee identified the appropriate benchmark.  

Robert Watling, vice president for finance and chief financial officer, said, “From there we had a conversation with the board of trustees and given the environment that we’re in now we thought it would be best to invest in our people, our faculty, and bring them up to at minimum what we as a committee thought would be the appropriate salary benchmark.”

The benchmark is determined by two factors: the rank of the faculty member and the discipline they teach. 

“There’s a taxonomy put together by the Department of Education that classifies various different academic programs. So an assistant professor for accounting would have their own benchmark whereas an assistant professor for English would have their own separate benchmark,” Watling said.

The ability to increase pay is a result of consistent restructuring of the university budget over the past few years. Approximately two million dollars was saved by reducing the operating budget and approximately $800,000 was saved by refinancing some of the university’s debt. According to Watling, another year of restructuring should save $700,000.

“We’ve been reducing our expense base,” said Watling. “And if it wasn’t for that series of reductions, we very likely would not be in the place that we would be able to make that investment now in faculty salaries.” 

An issue that needs to be addressed is the fact that UDs is a largely tuition-dependent university. The university is currently 90% dependent on tuition and room-and-board for the operating budget. As salaries are increased, there will need to be a way to continue to fund such salaries in case tuition money slows down.

Watling said: “What we’re trying to do is become less dependent on tuition because in [the event that] the growth of tuition slows down, a good institution should look at expanding revenue sources. So we’re looking at ways that we can diversify our revenue sources, so we can fund things such as this in the future. And we have a lot of assets at our disposal that we might not be fully utilizing.”

When asked if there are goals for the future regarding compensation, Watling said he believes it will evolve over time. To meet the 55th percentile of the CUPA benchmarking salary survey is a pretty significant step. Watling, who has been at several institutions, knows the difficulty of trying to hit even the 50th percentile, so achieving the 55th percentile is a statement that UD is better than average. 

Of course, this is all part of a broader mission. As Watling said, “The entire purpose of this is that, again, to achieve the president’s and our vision of being the premiere Catholic liberal arts institution in the country, we need to attract and retain the premiere faculty tuition… and this is the first step in doing so.”

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