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So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Report: If you teach at a UC school, you're probably underpaid

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28385 full

If you teach at the University of California, you're probably paid less than your peers in similar positions at competing schools, according to the system's annual report on employee compensation released today.

The systemwide report on 2011 compensation found that pay for many UC employees is "significantly below market" and that salary increases for non-union employees have been minimal or nonexistent since 2008. 

A 2009 study found that many UC employees received less money than those working in similar positions elsewhere. At the time faculty received about 10 percent less than their peers at competing institutions. Officials believe this problem has likely grown worse, but have not been able to afford a repeat study, said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein.

"The feeling is the lag is even greater because while everybody is getting raises, we aren’t," Klein said.

About half of the UC system's annual $22.5 billion operating budget goes to payroll costs. And though only 11 percent comes from state funding, Klein said this money primarily goes to the "core educational mission" of the system: paying its faculty and staff.

"The lack of general salary increases over a multi-year period threatens to exacerbate existing talent management challenges in attracting and retaining high-performing faculty and staff at UC," the report stated. "These challenges are expected to increase, particularly as the economy recovers and other institutions are in a position to recruit UC’s top performers."

Yet UC's total payroll grew from $10 billion in 2010 to $10.6 billion in 2011, the report said. It attributed the growth to "restored furlough reductions and increased research activity."

Athletic coaches and health sciences faculty members are at the top of the UC pay scale. Health sciences employees receive pay from medical revenue; athletic coaches are often funded through contracts such as television deals, alumni donations, and game revenues such as ticket sales. And though faculty often receive research grants that include salary, it's more often those in the sciences or medical fields who receive such funding.

Though some positions did receive merit increases in 2011, according to the report, a Board of Regents plan to try to make university pay more competitive with others in the market was delayed because of the state's fiscal crisis.

"You don’t come to work for the University of California thinking you're going to be rich," Klein said. "That's not the mindset here. There are other benefits. But there comes a tipping point where, if you don't pay people what they're worth, they're going to go somewhere else, and then we all suffer."

It is hard to know how many professors the UC system has lost because of the lower pay. ("We don't keep a running total of 'the ones that got away,'" Klein said.) But a few higher-profile cases have played out in public. Last year UC San Diego lost three well-respected scientists to Rice University in Houston. They lured away by $10 million and incentives that the system could not match.

The UC system was hit by a $750 million cut last budget year and may lose up to $375 million depending on whether initiatives to raise taxes are approved by voters in November. The Board of Regents approved a freeze on student tuition increases as long as voters pass the new tax increases.

UC officials warn that if the measures fail the system could be forced to raise student fees by up to $2,400 per year or "resort to deep cuts to UC's academic program, as well as layoffs, hiring freezes and more."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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