Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Faculty union shakes the tin cup 

Over the email transom this AM came a plea from our faculty union to "Stop the Slide" in our compensation.
� Although we serve the people of Minnesota best when we are able to attract and retain our high-quality faculty, we continue to slide further behind the market on national faculty salary scales. Our faculty are compensated below the national average for comparable institutions.

Given what we're hiring these days, I'd suggest we're paying too much still.
� Governor Pawlenty's proposed $10 million line item for competitive salaries is a
form of merit pay intended for a small number of faculty and staff at campuses
with so-called designated "centers of excellence."

I.e., "we can't give money to people who deserve it because we're all excellent!" Our faculty union leaders are listening to too much Keillor, I guess.
� Minnesota's "effort" for higher education, measured by state appropriations/$1000 of personal income, has fallen from $15.08/$1000 in 1978 to only $7.55 in 2004.

Of all the things I hated when I took public finance in grad school, "effort" measures were the ones that pissed me off the most. This statement assumes no efficiency gains in education can accrue to taxpayers; that taxpayers cannot shift funding to other items because their demand for higher education changes (for example, higher ed spending driven higher by young men going to school to avoid the draft in the 1960s and early 70s -- this didn't go back to pre-Vietnam levels overnight); or that more money would be well spent.
� Minnesota has slid to 47th among the 50 states in terms of increases in state appropriations for higher education for this year (The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 2004).

Did you watch the legere de main that occured in that sentence? "In terms of increases in state appropriations." That's not comparing levels of state appropriations for higher education on a per capita basis (we're 16th) or on a per $1000 basis (we're 25th, i.e., right at the median.) Source.
� Minnesota spends less per capita on higher education than Mississippi or Alabama (2003 Governing Magazine Sourcebook).

I'm sorry, but isn't that redneckism? Oh right, they're not a protected class. But seriously, what the hell is with all the comparisons to Alabama? Last I heard, they were still part of the U.S. The numbers, by the way, are Alabama $267.50, Mississippi $272.18, Minnesota $249.63. We're also much more populous states. Wouldn't one expect some economies of scale? California spends less than Alabama and Mississippi too ($253.59) -- think Gray Davis underfunded those schools? (Same source.)
� State appropriations for MnSCU this year (FY 2005) are $3 million less than they were in FY 1999. Since 1999, MnSCU�s FYE enrollment increased from 106,000 to 130,000, and cumulative inflation has been nearly 15%.

But what they don't tell you is that the growth in MnSCU is far more in the lower-cost colleges than the higher-cost universities. If you merge the two- and four-year colleges and try to gain efficiencies by using the colleges for first- and second-year students, wouldn't you expect to see some decline in appropriations?

And of course, the thing they really won't tell you is that what they are protecting with this discussion is a middle-class entitlement.