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Faculty pay-plan could increase tuition at UWRF

February 7, 2013

Student Senators Grady Nelson, Kayla Edstrom, Dominic Riel and Jessica Pett at a Senate meeting. Senate passed a motion in support of a new pay-plan for faculty. (Bill Thao/Student Voice)
Student Senators Grady Nelson, Kayla Edstrom, Dominic Riel and Jessica Pett at a
Senate meeting. Senate passed a motion in support of a new pay-plan for faculty. (Bill Thao/Student Voice)

Student Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution lobbying the Wisconsin state legislature to enact a UW System state-wide plan that increases tuition to give UW System faculty a pay raise. In the resolution, Senate pushed for a 2 to 3 percent increase in tuition that would go towards faculty salaries.

The resolution, which passed by a vote of 19-2-2 during the Feb. 5 meeting, will now be forwarded to the UW System Board of Regents, State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and to Gov. Scott Walker. UW-Stevens Point is the only other UW System school to pass a similar resolution. If the pay-plan is put forth, it would be a system-wide initiative. Senate’s resolution is simply urging the state legislature to enact a plan. Even though it passed this resolution, it does not mean tuition will go up unless the legislature acts.

Senate President Bobbi O’Brien authored the motion put before the UW-River Falls Senate. She argued that for the UW System to keep and attract quality professors, they need to be paid accordingly. She cited an article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Dec. 8, 2012, that backed UW System President Kevin Reilly who said faculty in the UW System get paid 18 percent below the national average.

“We need to uphold our reputation and provide the best staff to students,” O’Brien said. “The cost of living is going up so we need to adjust to provide for faculty and staff and we need to pay them more.”

Senator Hannah Carlson however, argued that a big reason why so many students come to UWRF is that tuition is affordable and that by increasing tuition UWRF would lose many of the students that they hoped to attract through quality professors.

“One of the main reasons I came to UWRF was because I knew that if I worked hard I could pay for tuition by myself,” Carlson said.

She also stated she believes faculty do get paid well enough, especially compared to the private sector. “Faculty at UWRF make between $50,000-$100,000.  It is important that we don’t alienate those students who come here for the low costs,” Carlson said.

If the legislature passes a pay-plan with a 2 to 3 percent increase, each UWRF student could see their tuition go up $68-$102 per semester based on the $3,392.04 in tuition that was due for spring semester 2013.

O’Brien argued that UWRF will lose qualified and the dedication of professors because of  the 18 percent difference. “It is hard to replace those that are qualified,” O’Brien said.
Senator A.J. Hanson, though he voted yes on the motion, said this motion is not just for UWRF but for all of state so it doesn’t necessarily make UWRF more marketable or attractive for professors.

O’Brien also made it clear that faculty are mostly paid through tuition dollars and that without raising tuition there will not be an increase in pay.

Senator Derek Johnson also voiced concern over the resolution. He chose to abstain from voting, but during the Senate meeting he said that while he agrees UWRF needs to attract quality professors, this resolution doesn’t make that happen. The motion only increases the pay, he said, and it does not mean that UWRF hires more professors or that there will be smaller class sizes.

With the passage of the motion by the Senate, President O’Brien will now take the resolution to the UW System Student Representatives meeting with a goal of getting more schools to pass similar measures.

It is unclear whether this will be on the state legislature’s agenda.