NIU competes with salary increases

By Melissa Blake

Since 1998, NIU’s state appropriations have decreased from $120 million to $99,844,000, said Bob Albanese, associate vice president of Finance and Facilities. NIU also saw a 57-percent increase in the number of people making $100,000 or more, according to the working papers.

In 1998, 51 employees held six-figure salaries, according to fiscal 1999 working papers. As of fiscal 2004, the number has reached 80 employees.

“Nothing abnormal has happened as far as I know,” said Ivan Legg, executive vice president and provost. “[The rise in salaries is] a universal observation in the democratic society we live in.”

Legg said it has been a challenge for NIU to balance the salary increases with the increased number of positions.

Competition has forced NIU to raise salaries over the years, said Eliakim Katz, professor and chair of the economics department.

“If NIU is to maintain and improve its teaching and research, it will have to continue to pay competitive salaries,” he said. “If it does not, good faculty will not come here, and those that are here and are able to find jobs elsewhere will leave.”

Staying competitive also means keeping wage increases in line with the rest of the economy, said Carl Campbell, associate professor and assistant chair of economics.

In 1999, the annual mean salary of post-secondary education administrators in the United States was $60,170; in 2003, the mean salary was $74,040, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site.

Another factor to consider is an administrator’s level of education, adjunct economics instructor Jeff Reynolds said. The higher salaries correspond to higher levels of education, he said.

Steve Cunningham, associate vice president for administration and human resources, does not see the salary trend as alarming. The fact that NIU is a research university and the nature of NIU’s market relate to how salary distributions move up over time, he said.

“We would find a similar trend everywhere,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said NIU monitors administrative efficiency, keeping track of head-counts and the total cost of positions that support teaching. With this criteria, NIU compares favorably with other universities, he said. As enrollment increases, so does the cost of living.

Some NIU students are skeptical of the salary increases.

Junior OMIS major David Nyquist said the rate of salary increases is a little steep. Whenever there is a salary increase, it seems there is some sort of student fee increase as well, he said.

“If you’re cutting budgets, [you] can’t be raising salaries,” he said.

Amy Bricco, a junior early childhood education major, said employees should be paid sufficient salaries, but only to a certain point.

“[Salaries should not increase] to the point that our education is going to suffer or [that NIU] wouldn’t have good resources,” Bricco said.

At press time, it was unclear what shape this year’s budget will take.

“We’d like to see some increases, but frankly, it may not be in the cards,” he said. “If we can [increase salaries] budget-wise, we’ll figure out a way.”