December 3, 2020

Decrease in tuition revenue could delay faculty pay increases

A statement by Webster University President Beth Stroble during convocation on Aug. 16 called into question the implementation of the Mercer Compensation Study for this and future academic years.

“We’re on target to complete this project by 2015,” Stroble said in her annual address to faculty and staff at convocation. “I’ll remind you, however, that staying the course and meeting that target is dependent on available revenue, which at our institution is largely dependent on tuition dollars.”

Tuition payments are responsible for more than 90 percent of Webster’s revenue. A five-year Webster enrollment trend showed negative to flat growth rates in areas of graduate, international, St. Louis metro and military student enrollment numbers. The only area of growth was online enrollment, which was explained by Stroble during convocation.

“As of summer 2012, there is a $1.6 million shortfall,” Stroble said.

Recommendations from the Mercer Compensation Study would bring faculty members’ salaries closer to the market median over a three-year period. The Board of Trustees approved the compensation plan in April 2011. The first stage of the plan was applied during the 2011-2012 academic year. Stage two of the plan is scheduled to be applied during October and November 2012.

Currently, the compensation plan is a three-stage program with a completion target of 2015. However, with this year’s budget shortfall, the compensation plan implementation could see changes, said Barbara O’Malley, Webster’s chief communications officer, in an email.

“Salary adjustments toward the midpoint are based on years in rank and/or position and job performance,” O’Malley said. “We are currently assessing the potential for further rounds of adjustments, which will depend on our fiscal position.”

Bill McConnell, astronomy and meteorology professor, said he is concerned the decrease in enrollment and reduced tuition revenue could potentially become a common trend at Webster.

“If your enrollments are not growing, then you’ve got to do something else to cut back your expenses,” McConnell said. “I think that will be a major problem for Webster in the next five years. There are people who would like to believe that (enrollment rates) will turn around. It may eventually turn around. There’s still a demand to have a degree.”

Daniel Hellinger, professor of political science and international relations, said that if cutbacks occur with the university’s budget, Webster should not defer staff pay increases. Rather, Hellinger said, the university should honor its promises to the group.

“I have greater concern that the study and increases for staff would be delayed,” Hellinger said. “In regards to the faculty — since I am currently benefiting from the pay increase — if I have to wait another year for my compensation plan to be fulfilled, I understand.”

Tierre Rhodes contributed to this report. 

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