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UCA Faculty Senate looking at advisors to increase retention

Posted: April 9, 2014 - 6:43pm

The possibility of creating new college specific academic advisors, trained to advise students declared under a specific college or academic unit, was scrutinized by the UCA Faculty Senate during its most recent meeting.

Dr. Don Bradley is proposing the advisors, and he wanted 30 to be allocated throughout the nine colleges/academic units on campus.

Bradley discussed that having advisors in the department increases retention and grades. Referencing the Athletic program, which enrolls 400 students and has three program-specific advisors, Bradley said the program has the highest retention rates and average grade point average. In 2012, retention rates from the student athletes were at 96 percent, while UCA as a whole remained at 70 percent.

“Retention is gained when a relationship between professor and student is made,” said Senator-At-Large Kim Eskola.

She continued to explain that there is no reason to hire new individuals when professors are doing the work and that these funds should be applied to existing faculty salaries.

Another member discussed that he had found a job at an in-state community college that would pay 20 percent more than his UCA salary. According to online data from The Chronicle of Higher Education, UCA faculty average about $60,075 about 18 percent less than the national average.

This discussion is not new. Some faculty and staff have expressed that there is no sense of loyalty at the university because the incentive to stay is lacking.

“I understand the importance of making sure we are attracting the best and brightest talent by offering good initial salaries, however, it is absolutely ridiculous that new people without UCA experience come in at higher rates, while people who have been here longer have no hopes of ever seeing an increase. It is very demoralizing and I know from talking to many of my colleagues that it creates an environment where people feel NO loyalty at all to UCA. We might attract good talent in a bad economy, but we will not keep that talent if we do not show a good faith effort to reward those people after they’ve been here awhile.,” said the 2012 Compensation Proposal.

The issue of salary also applies to those on staff. According to the 2012 Staff Compensation committee there is a problem on the ground level of hiring. “Many felt that UCA has hired less experienced people in at higher salaries for the same (or lesser) job without raising the salary of seasoned UCA employees” said the committee proposal.

Although these concerns have been noted, a staff survey concluded that 41.7 percent are paid between Entry and Base Level salaries despite their years of service. “I have been a state employee for 20 years and only make entry pay for my grade. That is sad,” said one staff member.

The caution to increase salaries is in part due to the debt the university had incurred in 2009. The university, thanks to many cuts and frugal decisions went from a credit rating of Baa1 to A3. These scores are based on Moody’s Investors Services. Moody’s is a bond credit rating. According to Moody’s, a Baa1 score is “Rated as medium grade, with some speculative elements and moderate credit risk” and an A3 rating is “Rated as high quality and very low credit risk,” said Moody’s website.

There is hope on the horizon for those looking for faculty and staff looking for a salary increase. The 2014 purposed fiscal budget with help from the Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC) has established a cost-of-living adjustment. “Cost-of-Living Adjustment of 2% for all positions with faculty rank” and “ Cost-of-Living Adjustment of 3 percent for all non-faculty personnel,” said the 2014 budget proposal.

Among other proposed increases in equity and faculty promotion/advancement, employees at UCA may receive their well-deserved salary increase.

A budget workshop meeting to discuss the proposed budget for the 2014 fiscal year will be held Friday April 25 at 10 a.m. in Wingo Hall and should be finalized by April 30.

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