Lack or hiring takes toll

By Diane Buerger

With the approach of the next decade, students might face larger classes taught by less qualified professors due to a projected teacher shortage which has already affected NIU’s English department.

Although faculty were hired in greater numbers in previous decades due a populaton growth, NIU’s English department did not hire any new faculty from 1975 to 1985, said Freshmen English Director Robert Self.

“We hope to adjust to that situation,” said Provost Kendall Baker. “We don’t want to be lowering the quality of the faculty. NIU is based on having quality faculty.

“Certainly competition is much stiffer than in the past,” Baker added. “We are entering a new era, but the stampede hasn’t occurred yet.”

Teachers’ salaries in Illinois are lower than in other states, causing many faculty members to be hired away to other institutions with more competitive salaries. Also, the bulk of faculty hired during the 1960s are now retiring.

Salary is only one of the aspects a prospective faculty member may consider, Baker said. Other considerations include geographics, the amount of research faculty members can do to further their careers and department opportunities.

“We lost four faculty members during the year,” Self said, “It wasn’t simply better paying jobs.

“Two people (from the rhetoric staff) left because of better paying jobs and one of our senior staff members died.”

Universities which are unable to fill the more qualified teaching positions might be forced to promote existing faculty and hire less qualified individuals for associate professorships. Jobs that used to require doctorates might now be open for recent recipients of master’s degrees.

“We’ve been making this case (the need for more funding for salaries) for over two years,” Baker said. “I think because of the legislature’s recognition, the tax increase clearly indicates they understand the dimensions of this problem.”

As universities compete for professors, salary offers will increase. Professors hired years ago at older and lower salary scales might begin to see younger, less qualified individuals paid a higher salary.

“It certainly will turn what has been for the last two decades a buyers’ market into a sellers’ market,” Self said.

“We find ourselves competing across the board with older, more historic names with more resources to support research,” Self said. “It puts us at a disadvantage.”

The current average salary of an NIU professor is $46,000—about average with other Illinois universities, the Board of Regents reports.

The Board of Regents governs NIU, Illinois State University in Normal and Sangamon State University in Springfield.

“The downturn in the number of people doing Ph.D.s in a variety of disciplines besides English came when the number of students entering graduate school started to decline,” J. Carroll Moody, University Council executive secretary said.