The legislative committee studying the affordability of higher education in Nevada voted Monday to urge creation of a “comprehensive and sustainable faculty compensation including in-rank salary increases.”
The committee approved a bill draft request that would instruct the Board of Regents to put together a system of professional faculty employment and compensation after being told during the recession, system professors and professionals were basically left behind.
Doug Unger, chairman of the UNLV Faculty Senate, said NSHE educators are the only group of state employees who don’t have a system of step increases in pay. He said the current system is “structurally biased and, frankly, discriminatory,” leaving professors with “woeful salaries and stingy healthcare.”
Kent Ervin of the Nevada Faculty Alliance said an independent study estimated it would take up to $93 million to fix the problems. Conceding that probably can’t happen at once, he said establishing a fair and regular compensation system would help fix things over time.
They were joined by Democratic Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, a former UNLV professor, who said this is “much overdue.”
She said there are numerous faculty members in the system “who stuck with us through the recession.” She said lawmakers have to make sure they aren’t left behind.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he would support the bill draft request but would have to “take a look at what it does when we get into session.” He said his obvious concern is the cost.
The panel voted to approve a letter to the Board of Regents and chairs of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees calling for a one-time base pay salary adjustment in fiscal 2020 for faculty and professional staff. Kieckhefer and Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, voted against the plan with Edwards saying putting cost estimates of more than $90 million in the letter “will scare a lot of people away from having the discussion.”
To accompany that proposed legislation, the panel also approved sending a letter to the regents urging NSHE participate in the annual American Association of University Professors faculty compensation survey to help provide everyone with valid comparative salary data.
The committee also agreed to seek expansion of the Silver State Opportunity Grants program from just the community colleges into the two universities. That too drew opposition from Kieckhefer because the potential cost could be in the millions. SSOG is a need based funding program for students system officials say is working well at the community college level. Study Committee Chair Amber Joiner, D-Reno, said she envisions it as a pilot program for the two universities similar to the existing community college program.