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Deficit budget proposed to fund merit raises

Photo courtesy of Ahsanjaya | Pexels

Note: this publication contains corrections in the first line different from what appeared in print in the Relays Edition

Some Drake University faculty may see pay increases for the first time in years if the board of trustees approves the use of a deficit budget for the 2022-23 academic year. 

Though the budget will not be finalized and formally approved until next school year, the deficit budget would allow for a pool for merit pay raises—raises given to employees based on work performance. Overall faculty pay is currently at less than 80% of the median target for each discipline, The Times-Delphic previously reported. 

“The issue was raised to the board, and they recognize the importance of salary increases,” Provost Sue Mattison said in an email on March 28.

Faculty senate president Matthew Zwier anticipates that long-term funding for pay increases will come as a result of initiatives Drake is working on, including The Ones campaign

“So [we] take action now to intervene and run with a deficit budget for one or two years while these projects come online,” Zwier said. “The major effort is The Ones campaign that is currently underway, which is the outgrowth of the Big Ideas initiatives that have been brewing over the last few years. Those are the efforts that are being undertaken to make Drake a more attractive option for students, provide sustainability for our budget, and from those two things, the first thing is fair and equitable pay for employees.”

Zwier said student enrollment–which provides the revenue needed to give faculty pay increases–has not been meeting expectations, in part due to the pandemic. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment in the US decreased 7.8% between fall of 2019 and fall of 2021. 

“Even if it looks like we’re coming in at 850 students, sometimes we don’t know until August or September, ‘Oops, it’s 775,’ ” Zwier said. “And that’s an enormous amount of money. It’s not that faculty and staff pay is the first thing to go, it’s that a 50 student fluctuation in enrollment is a multimillion dollar hit to the budget. So things like merit pools or just general across-the-board inflation adjustments, it’s not correct to say that they’re the first to go, but they go along with a whole bunch of other stuff when we don’t meet our enrollment targets.”

With student enrollment falling short of expectations, Zwier said it has been at least five years since Drake has had an across-the-board pay increase for faculty and staff. 

“So if possible, there will be an across-the-board increase,” Zwier said. “If the budget is not quite strong enough, then it would probably devolve into a merit pool, with the expectation that many, if not most, employees would qualify for a merit increase.”

In an email to faculty last fall, Mattison laid out plans to increase overall faculty pay to “80% of the median target for their discipline” by making adjustments to the budget and curriculum, including cutting the number of courses offered in each school.  

“Where that 80 percent target came from was a recognition of two things: one, we can’t get to where we want to get to immediately, and two, our comparison pool includes institutions that have much larger budgets and much larger endowments than we do,” Zwier said. “The hope is to get first to 80 percent, then to 85 percent, then to 92 percent.”

With these plans in place, Zwier said faculty can expect to see pay increases in the near future.

“I think a lot of faculty members are not aware of how principled the approach is,” Zwier said. “Yeah, it’s going to be a challenge in the next year or two to make a merit increase happen, and it might take a deficit budget, but if even half of the campaign goals that have been laid out are met, you’re going to be at a place in three years where you can get that raise with 90 percent certainty.”

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