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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

Faculty Group Merits Praise for its Idea to Reduce Salaries

February 11, 2009

OPINION
KEARNEY HUB

Kudos to a group of faculty members at the University of Nebraska at Kearney for suggesting that, in this difficult economy and with spending cuts looming, faculty and staff should consider taking a pay cut.

This is a tough call and one that won’t be unanimously accepted. One member of the faculty senate has said the idea may be derailed by the faculty’s collective bargaining agreement before it gains any momentum. Opponents of the idea could also point out that a pay cut would undo efforts the past few years to finally get pay built up at UNK to a level more competitive with peers.

Still, the proposal deserves careful consideration and discussion. The proponents see a progressive pay cut — requiring a bigger percentage from the most highly paid and a lesser percentage from those at the bottom of the scale — as a preferable alternative to eliminating jobs or shutting down programs.

Their proposal also addresses the need to ease off on tuition increases at a time when working Nebraskans are being squeezed. While UNK tuition remains the least expensive among the NU campuses, per-hour costs have still risen at around double the inflation rate for several years. The pay cut proponents are wary about trying to make up shortfalls in state support by once again ratcheting up tuition.

At this early stage it’s uncertain whether the proposal will result in faculty and staff pay cuts. But it certainly deserves debate as one possible solution to UNK’s budget challenges. Furthermore, the proposal should be held up for other public workforces to emulate as a creative and novel response to a recession that is leaving many of their private-sector peers out of work or taking wage freezes and cuts.

Regardless if the pay cut proposal ultimately succeeds at UNK, it’s certainly a refreshing contrast to our friends in Congress, who blithely accepted a raise of $4,700 for 2009, boosting their average pay to around $174,000, even while the economy is in shambles and their own performance is widely ridiculed.