USM faculty, staff in line for pay raise

By The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG — Faculty and staff members at the University of Southern Mississippi are in line for their first salary raise in three years.

USM President Martha Saunders told The Hattiesburg American that $3.5 million in available from the school’s education and general fund. That’s the result of budget savings the university realized from a shorfall that did not occur.

The $3.5 million in raises equates to roughly 3.5 percent per employee if handed out evenly. Sanders said some personnel will get more through merit raises.

The last time faculty and staff members received pay increases was in 2008.

According to data from the Southern Regional Education Board, the average fulltime faculty salary in Mississippi was $62,568 for 2009-2010. That’s about where it was in 2007-2008. Meanwhile, the average fulltime faculty salary for the remaining 15 regional states went from $71,250 to $73,450.

Saunders said that stagnating wages make it tough for the university to compete for faculty members both nationally and internationally.

“There is a wonderful quality of life here certainly, but we have to compete to a certain extent with salaries,” she said.

According to state College Board figures from 2009, Southern Mississippi ranks third in average salaries behind Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi among public universities.

Biology professor David Beckett said that he’s seen salary stagnation affect rising junior faculty the most. He said USM provides competitive beginning salaries to attract new faculty members, but they soon become disenchanted with the lack of raises.

“They say enough of this, and they shop around get a better offer and then they leave,” Beckett said.

Last year, USM cut 29 faculty positions and 28 programs to counter anticipated budget cuts, only to bring nearly all of them back later.