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Faculty difficult to retain, recruit amid state cuts

Over the past five years the University has lost more than $125 million in state support.

But of more concern to some, is the brain drain that has accompanied it.

USF has lost 267 faculty members since 2007. With less support from the state, raises have been harder to come by and faculty members have seen less in take-home salary due to pension plan cuts from the state.

USF Vice Provost for Strategic Planning Graham Tobin said the cuts have made it difficult for USF to keep the institution attractive to faculty.

If (the loss of faculty) continues, it will be felt through the academic arena, he said. We need to maintain academics as the core of the institution. Thats why were all here. Students are here for an education, faculty are here to provide that education and the administration and staff are here to facilitate the facultys job.

But the trend is being felt across the state. As money becomes tighter, it becomes more difficult for the university to recruit incoming faculty.

We know theres poaching of faculty, Tobin said.

We did the same at the beginning of the economic crisis. We started to look around and said hey, theres some good people out there. The money is so short we may not be able to make good counter offers to keep them here.

During the 2011-2012 year, USF hired 94 new faculty members, which included 39 visiting posts, 30 assistant professor positions, 18 instructor positions, five research positions, two associate professor positions and two full professor positions.

The year before USF hired 124 new faculty, of which 44 were assistant professors, nine were instructors, four were research professors, 41 were visiting professors, six were associate professors, 14 were full professors.

There were 169 new faculty hired in 2009, 103 in 2008, 197 in 2007 and 239 in 2006.

Though no hiring freezes have been implemented, retaining existing faculty has become more difficult across the state.

Florida State University President Eric Barron told the Governors Blue Ribbon Task Force for Higher Education, that on average, FSU employees were receiving offers of $20,000 more than what the school could afford to offer. Of the 58 employees who received offers from other universities, FSU could only retain eight.

We all Florida institutions are under pressure, Tobin said. Our faculty are being offered higher rewards elsewhere. And thats not to say faculty are being mercenaries.

In an interview with The Oracle earlier this year, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said that
many faculty members left the university, citing reasons other than salary.

Were going to lose talented professors, who are going to follow the money, he said.

Its fair to say this year, weve come close to losing some of our very best and most talented professors. Touch wood, to this moment in time, weve been able to retain them.

But it costs money, he said. When their equipment breaks down or they dont have the same sort of state of the art equipment … then they cant compete, and theyre going to look for greener pastures that can provide them with the infrastructure they need to be successful. Interestingly, in most of those cases, theyre not asking for salary increases. Theyre just saying please, in order for my graduate or undergraduate students to be successful, we need some upgraded lab instrumentation and equipment.

But greener pastures may be available outside the state.

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the University of Connecticut is
creating 300 new tenure-track positions over the next four years, Iowa State University is creating 200 new positions and the University of Minnesota is looking to create between 80 and 100.

The article stated that at Connecticut, which received about $45 million in budget cuts last year, the new hires are estimated to cost about $50 million the total amount cut to the USF System this year. But an external firm was hired to evaluate places where costs could be cut, and found the University could save around $20 million with the use of technology, which included recommendations to consolidate services and reduce server space according to the Associated Press.

Iowa State received $5.2 million in additional funding, and the University of Minnesota received a $46 million cut, according to the universities websites. Yet both Connecticut and Minnesota had larger operating budgets than USF, even after cuts.

Tobin said the states commitment to education will be vital in keeping faculty.

Lots of states are saying lets invest in higher education, he said. We havent seen that here yet.