BOONE — Amid a continued push by faculty members to address salary increases, Appalachian State administrators said on April 12 that faculty and staff salaries are among the three top priorities for the 2019-20 budget.
Administrators outlined budget needs and priorities at spring budget presentations that were open to students, faculty and staff and held at the Plemmons Student Union.
”We’re working on that,” said Appalachian State Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte, emphasizing that the university is pushing hard for a change in the University of North Carolina system’s funding model, which for years has allotted fewer dollars to Appalachian State on a per-student basis than other UNC system institutions.
In fiscal year 2016-17, Appalachian ranked 15th among the 17 UNC system institutions at $7,859 per student, which was $3,834 below the average of $11,693 per student, according to information presented by Forte.
Forte noted the 2016 law guaranteeing students a fixed tuition rate for four years as well as UNC-initiated freezes on tuition increases in recent years. Tuition increases have been tapped as a source of revenue for faculty pay raises in the past.
He also explained that due to a change in state appropriations for enrollment growth funding from projected numbers to actual numbers, ASU will not receive an enrollment growth funding allocation in 2019-20. But administrators are hopeful that a proposed allocation for summer school will help supplant that shortfall in 2019-20. The UNC system Board of Governors requested a $43.6 million state appropriation for summer enrollment funding in 2019-20 — including $7.3 million for Appalachian State.
Provost Darrell Kruger outlined areas of progress and concern for the Division of Academic Affairs. Kruger noted that the university has continued to add new faculty positions over the past four years, and that this year marks the first time ASU has exceeded more than 1,000 full-time faculty members. Full-time positions have increased while part-time faculty positions have decreased, he added.
But, he acknowledged, the average faculty salary at Appalachian lags behind the university’s peer institutions.
”Faculty and staff salaries remain the No. 1 priority,” Kruger said. Other priorities include adding faculty and staff to support enrollment growth, increasing diversity among faculty and staff and renovations to Sanford Hall, he said.
During Q&A periods in between budget presentations, faculty members questioned a perceived reliance on a funding model change to achieve faculty salary increases.
”I’m particularly grateful to hear that you intend to prioritize faculty salaries,” said Michael Behrent, associate professor of history and a Faculty Senate member. “While I appreciate the emphasis and understand the importance of changing the funding model, there seems to be another thing we need to prioritize, besides changing the funding model, which is to prioritize academics.”
Behrent pressed administrators on whether they would implement recommendations made in the recent CERPA (Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis) report on ASU faculty salaries — which was prepared by two Appalachian State economics professors — including a 5 percent annual reduction in administrative and support budgets for three years, with savings to be redirected to academics and faculty salaries.
Forte said that administrators soon planned to meet with the Faculty Senate Budget Committee, which commissioned the CERPA report, and noted that some university revenue sources can only be used for certain purposes. He declined Behrent’s request to share his opinions on the CERPA report.
Kruger acknowledged a resolution passed by the Faculty Senate on April 8 urging that “the administration of App State recommit to achieving the goal of faculty salaries reaching the 80th percentile of our peer institutions with all deliberate speed and in no more than three years.” He said administrators would look at how realistic it is to reach that mark.
Goals for the Division of Business Affairs, presented by Forte, include implementation of an employee expense software system, establishment of a police department health and wellness initiative, upgrades to the Emergency Operations Center, developing master plans for dining and the bookstore, pilot programs for digital course materials as part of the textbook rental system and working with AppalCART to add buses and increase frequency of service.
The division’s budget request also includes hiring for eight employee positions.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs J.J. Brown noted that his division employs more than 300 full-time staff and more than 1,400 student employees. The division’s goals include diversity in staff recruitment and retention; promotion of health and wellness initiatives; donor development; innovation and technology, including a new career management platform called Handshake; and capital projects related to child care, recreation and wellness and student housing.
Randy Edwards, vice chancellor for university advancement, said his division’s requests include two entry-level gift officers, an administrative staff support position, funds to repair and refurbish the McKinney Alumni Center and expert consulting from the Education Advisory Board.
Athletics Director Doug Gillin noted that this year’s budgeted revenues are $25.4 million, with 51 percent being self generated and 49 percent coming from student fees. Of that total, 65 percent was allocated to individual sport budgets and 35 percent was allocated to support budgets, he said.
Funding priorities for fiscal year 2019-20 include support for student athlete wellbeing, including a counseling position, sports medicine and nutrition; funding for athletic scholarships; salaries and benefits; facilities and operating costs, according to Gillin’s presentation.