You can't eat the blackboard

Montana State Roundup

Published November 1, 2007  | November 2007 issue

Low salaries are a major headache for state university system administrators trying to hire and hang onto employees. A task force created by the Board of Regents reported in September that low salaries at postsecondary schools have hurt morale, driven away talent and made it more difficult to maintain campus buildings and grounds.

Historically, compensation at state colleges and universities has lagged well behind average campus pay nationally, consistent with relatively low pay in all economic sectors. But in the past few years, per capita income in Montana has increased, while faculty and staff pay relative to other states has stagnated or declined.

Surveys by the U.S. Department of Education show that average faculty salaries at four-year institutions in Montana rank 45th in the country, four places lower than in 2003. Faculty salaries at community colleges rank 49th, one notch higher than their last-place ranking in 2003.

Legislative belt-tightening since the 2001 recession has depressed wages for office and maintenance staff as well as for faculty. Conference rooms in the business school at Montana State University in Bozeman were recently closed during the evenings for two weeks because of a shortage of janitors to staff the night shift.

Phil Davies