Higher Education Faculty Position on AEI
Higher education faculty wish to thank Legislators for supporting a bill that will include eligible faculty in the annual experience incremental salary increase (AEI) that all other state employees, including higher education administrators and classified staff, currently receive. There are two crucial issues that have been raised concerning an AEI bill for faculty on which we wish to offer advice.
First, it is important that the annual increment for faculty be fully funded: the budget item ear-marked for faculty AEI is $2,026,368.00, while the actual cost, we are told, is $3,123,708.00. It is imperative that the difference not come from institutional budgets, as that would impact the programs that we offer our students and thus the quality of the education we provide for them.
Second, the issue has been raised that the increment amount for full-time faculty should be calculated differently from other full-time state employees. Classified staff and administrators who receive AEI may be on 9-12 month job appointments. The key for determining how the AEI is calculated is to look at the FTE value that is assigned to a higher education employee’s job description. It is the responsibility of each higher education institution to designate faculty as either “full-time” (meaning they perform 1950 hours of work per year and have a 1.0 FTE position) or as “part-time” (meaning their position is less than 1.0 FTE equivalent). Each institution keeps a record of the contracted faculty member's yearly and cumulative years of service which are calculated using the following formula: 1950 hours of work = 1.0 FTE = 1 year of service to the institution. It is this formula that should be used for calculating AEI monies to be distributed to each faculty member each year.
Series 8 of the Higher Education Policy Commission rules and Series 45 of the Council for Community and Technical College Education define what is meant by “full-time faculty.” Full-time faculty may be assigned to 9-12 month job appointments. While some faculty teach in summer sessions, others use summer for a variety of professional duties: to write grants, develop professional projects, conduct research, complete publishing and writing projects, conduct study, develop and update courses and course materials, compile accreditation reports, maintain clinical competence, etc. Faculty must be productive during times when they are not in the classroom in order to receive tenure and promotions; we are the only state employees who must achieve this extraordinary degree of productivity to keep our jobs. As a measure of faculty productivity, last year higher education faculty brought into the state more than $158 million in grants and contracts; this is an important part of our job and most of us utilize the summer months to accomplish these and other professional tasks; we do not consider that we are working for free as we complete these activities.
The AEI for higher education faculty is an important issue of equity and is not only the fair thing to do, but it will help encourage higher education faculty to remain loyal to the state and continue their service at West Virginia institutions of higher learning. This has become a particularly important issue in the past several years as higher education budget cuts and low morale have prompted a higher than ever attrition rate among faculty and as the demographics have changed to favor faculty mobility. Rectifying this significant oversight and parity issue will enable institutions of higher learning both to hire and to retain the kind of quality faculty necessary for a viable and healthy system of higher education in West Virginia.