ATLANTA - University System of Georgia full-time faculty make $665 per year less than the national average, a number Chancellor Stephen Portch said doesn't make the system competitive in the national higher education market.
"I don't want to be at the national average because I want our performance to be the top in the nation," he said. "We can't be satisfied with that because the long-term quality of the university system is dependent on faculty and staff."
In a report released this week by the Southern Regional Education Board, Georgia's average full-time faculty salary ranked fifth among Southern states.
Dr. Portch credits strong pay increases by former Gov. Zell Miller and Gov. Roy Barnes for helping the system improve salaries, which two years ago helped put Georgia second among Southern states. Beginning in 1994, Georgia's full-time faculty at four-year institutions received a 6 percent raise during each of four years. During the past two years, faculty have received 4 percent and 3 percent raises, respectively.
"Two years ago, we were getting all of our first choice candidates, and now I hear that is not always the case," Dr. Portch said. "We are beginning to not be able to retain everyone that we want to retain."
He said the system requested lower raises the past two years because that's what the administration thought would be necessary to keep the state's universities competitive. The system will rethink pay raises this year but hasn't determined how much will be handed out, he said.
Other Southern states, such as Texas and Florida, haven't made big improvements to faculty salaries, echoing a regional trend, according to SREB officials.
During a 10-year period, Florida, ranked second in 1988, has slipped to sixth place among Southern states. University officials said lack of state support, not increased enrollment, has hampered their efforts to improve salaries.
"The (Florida) Board of Regents has consistently asked for salary increases. Unfortunately, the Legislature hasn't funded it. It's that simple," said Keith Goldschmidt, spokesman for the board. "Some of the institutions have used some of their own money to help recruit the best and the brightest."
For the past three years, the Florida Legislature has funded only a 2.5 percent pay increase for university faculty. This year, the state's university system is asking not only for pay increases, but also for $30 million for performance-based incentives to help retain faculty.
Reach Shannon Womble at (404) 589-8424.