COLUMBIA — The salary freeze for University of Missouri System faculty and staff may be melting.
Although students will likely see a tuition increase in the coming fiscal year, some of the new revenue might go toward higher pay for teachers who earn it. The UM System Board of Curators will consider this week whether to include a merit-based 2 percent average salary increase for faculty and staff.
If approved, a pool of dollars in the budget would be allocated for award-based merit raises, budgeted at an amount equal to 2 percent of payroll, said Nikki Krawitz, the UM System vice president of finance and administration.
"Some people might get nothing, and others might get 4 or 5 percent," Krawitz said.
Merit would be determined based on the annual evaluations of professors performed by the four campuses in the system. Faculty members are evaluated based on teaching, research and service.
Christian Basi, associate director at the MU News Bureau, said faculty members are assessed on student evaluation forms and departmental reviews.
For staff, merit-based raises would work in essentially the same way — based on performance reviews, Krawitz said.
According to information presented at the board's last meeting, the four-campus system ranks low in terms of average faculty salaries in its respective peer groups, which are made up of comparable institutions.
MU is last — 35th out of 35 institutions — in the Association of American Universities in average faculty salary. The University of Missouri-Kansas City is 17th out of 25 in its peer group; Missouri University of Science and Technology is 11th out of 16; and the University of Missouri-St. Louis is 29th out of 31.
As previously reported by the Missourian, the average faculty salary of the AAU is $96,382. The average at MU is $81,656.
Harry Tyrer, fiscal affairs committee chairman for the MU Faculty Council, said he believes a lot of faculty would be "greatly relieved" if the increase were to happen.
"I think a lot of faculty were very ... demoralized by facing the prospect of the third year of no raises," he said. "You can't buy kids' clothes and their food on good intentions."
A salary increase, Tyrer said, would be helpful in recruiting and retaining faculty members.
"The realistic issue is trying to maintain competitiveness — to make sure that the faculty that we hire are the best," he said.
Krawitz agreed the system needs to be proactive to keep and hire new faculty members by being able to offer them a competitive salary.
Diane Bartley, chairwoman of the Staff Advisory Council, said staff would be "thrilled" if the increases were to happen.
"There haven't been raises for several years, but expenses have been going up," Bartley said.
It is unfortunate the raise would be the result of a tuition increase for students, Tyrer said.
"If it happens it'll be great. It'll be great for me. It won't be great for them (students)," he said. "The thing I don't like about getting the raise is there is going to be a tuition increase."
Krawitz said the merit increases have "nothing to do with tuition" but are simply about building a budget that takes care of both physical and human capital.
"The decision on how much to increase tuition is a decision about tuition," she said. "One doesn't drive the other. It's one of the factors."
Tyrer said he will wait and see whether the increase happens.
"Until I hear the administration say, yes, they're going to do it, then I'll feel a lot more comfortable," he said.