NKU struggles to offer competitive salaries to faculty

Despite a year of cutbacks, with the state budget being cut by $500 million, Northern Kentucky University will maintain its three-year program to keep faculty salaries competitive, allowing them to aggressively recruit and maintain quality faculty members.

Two years ago, NKU President James Votruba started a three-year initiative to raise teacher salaries to reach the 55th percentile of the other 19 benchmark schools, which are schools similar in size to NKU. The first year of the program saw teacher salaries raise 6 percent, and this year they rose 7 percent. Next year, the final year of the plan, will raise the salaries another 6 percent. The plan has increased university payroll by 20 percent , but faculty members, on average, get paid $11,000 less then other benchmark schools.

What NKU lacks in salary, it makes up for in other areas to entice quality faculty members to NKU, Votruba said. NKU offers a good atmosphere at a metropolitan location and an array of amenities, like a new faculty development center, Votruba said.

“It is the quality of life,” Votruba said. “We are very competitive when you look at the whole package.”

While salary isn’t the only factor teachers look for, lower salaries make recruiting tougher and more expensive, said Gerard St. Amand, chair of the Chase College of Law.

“You want to pay people what their peers are being paid,” St. Amand said.

Chase College of Law has the lowest payroll of the four colleges on campus, with professor’s salaries only reaching 80 percent of the salaries of the 366 other schools across the nation that are a part of the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA). The school, however, can overcome these disadvantages through long, aggressive recruiting, St. Amand said. The school uses other traits, such as its geography and its smaller, more intimate class size, to its advantage when recruiting teachers, St. Amand said. As proof of how effective NKU can be at recruiting, St. Amand pointed to the three newest teachers Chase hired over the last two years.

One of these teachers is Mark Godsey, a Kentucky native who previously worked as a lawyer for the United States attorneys office in New York, said money was not the motivation for the job change.

“There is more than just salary. The location and the faculty here are great,” Godsey said. “For me it was coming home, I have Kentucky roots.”

Colleges like Arts ‘ Sciences offer competitive salaries by hiring less full-time professors and more lecturers and part-time faculty. said Gayle Wells, chair of Arts ‘ Sciences, said salaries need to match other schools to offer the best education to the students. “We must do it,” Wells said. “It is imperative.”