MISSOULA — Sixteen of the University of Montana’s 41 academic departments pay top faculty salaries of more than $100,000, including eight departments in the humanities and sciences, according to figures provided by the school’s Office of Planning, Budgeting and Analysis.
Broken down by departments across campus, the figures represent a portion of the $78 million UM budgeted for instruction in 2013 – up from $69 million in 2010.
“We maintain that roughly 80 percent of the entire university budget is in personnel,” said UM Provost Perry Brown. “It doesn’t give us a lot of wiggle room when looking at our budget.”
UM is grappling with a $6 million budget shortfall this fiscal year, and it will provide roughly $9 million less to base activities in next year’s budget.
Administrators have said that state-approved faculty pay raises will be honored, representing $6.4 million in additional costs.
A January report by the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that a growing number of schools across the country are covering their budget gaps by placing more adjunct and part-time faculty in the classroom.
Nationally, a full-time professor makes between $72,000 and $160,000 a year, while an adjunct teacher makes $26,000.
As a result, some schools are turning to cheaper adjuncts to trim costs.
UM hasn’t moved toward adjuncts as a cost-saving measure, though it will ask tenured professors to do more as adjunct contracts aren’t renewed.
Tenured and tenure-track faculty still represent 62 percent of the teaching staff on campus, while non-tenured positions account for only 38 percent. The numbers were similar in 2012, when the ratio was 60 percent tenured to 40 percent adjunct.
The figures are based on an employee headcount rather that FTEs, according to the school.
“We cannot have more than 25 percent of the faculty FTEs teaching courses in any semester that are adjuncts,” said Brown. “That’s a contractual agreement that we have with the faculty.”
Kevin McRae, deputy commissioner with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, believes Montana State University has roughly twice the number of adjuncts teaching than does UM, likely due to the school’s growing enrollment.
In 10 years on the job, McRae said, he hasn’t seen Montana’s universities shift toward a heavier reliance on adjunct and part-time professors as a method of trimming costs.
“I’ve never gotten the sense that campuses have tried to convert tenure-track faculty lines to adjunct positions with the motivation of saving money,” McRae said.”
If you started with a motivation of saving costs by laying off tenured and replacing them with adjuncts – that’s not a use that’s ever been employed in the MUS.”
The average tenured and tenure-track faculty salary at UM stands at $76,382. The minimum is $43,195 in environmental sciences, while the max salary is $158,780 in the School of Law.
Eight departments in the humanities and sciences pay a faculty salary of more than $100,000, with chemistry, psychology and history being the highest paid.
All three departments in the School of Business Administration paid a max salary of more than $100,000, while none of the departments in the schools of journalism, visual and performing arts and education and human sciences did.
“In any given year, about half the Montana campuses see an enrollment decline, and the other half sees an enrollment increase,” said McRae. “I have seen where campuses experience an enrollment decline and undergo program prioritization and staffing.
“It’s an area where you’ll see a campus make a decision not to replace a retiring tenured track, if the needs of students can be met by hiring non-tenured track.”
Positions that become vacant going forward at UM will not be replaced, except in the most compelling circumstances, school officials have said. Those positions will be reviewed by administrators on a case-by-case basis.
Administrators also have said that some contracts with adjunct faculty may not be renewed once they expire.
“When we have an increase in demand and you can’t hire tenure-track faculty fast enough, you go up with adjunct faculty to teach some basic fundamental courses, to fill in on sabbatical or to cover for someone who has another assignment due to research or outreach activities,” Brown said.
“Adjunct faculty numbers go up, and they go down with the demand.”