Teachers’ salaries are not being raised proportionally to inflation or to raises in tuition. According to Bob Hetzel, UW-La Crosse Budget Coordinator, budget cuts in the UW system are at the heart of this problem, and there is no sign of their coming to a halt
Over the last fifteen years, the UW system has taken a total of $612 million in budget reductions, with UW-La Crosse losing a total of $15.68 million in base reductions and an additional $8.57 million in one time budget reductions. Higher education has taken a back seat to K through twelve education, correctional facilities, Medicare, Medicaid and transportation. As a result, the financial burden on students has been steadily increasing even though UW-La Crosse has lost a total of 78 faculty and staff positions in the last fifteen years. At UWL, students have gone from being responsible for 40% of educational funding in 2002 to almost 70% in 2013. All while the state has steadily decreased funding for UWL and each of the other 25 state schools in Wisconsin.
Where do teachers’ salaries factor into all of this budget reduction? Looking at inflation, teachers At UWL have been denied the amount of compensation compared to rising costs of living. In the 1974-1975 school year, professors at UWL made an average of $20,051, associate professors made an average of $16,356 and assistant professors made an average of $13,690. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, adjusted for inflation in 2013, a professor should be making an average of $94,750, an associate professor should be making an average of $77,300 and an assistant professor should be making an average of $64,700. These are not the cases in reality however. According to the UW System Fact Book from 2012-2013, each of these positions at UWL, respectively, earns $77,051, $61,669 and $58,529, which are, again respectively, 29%, 31% and 10% lower than what inflation would amount to.
Tuition increase is also an inaccurate reflection of what teachers’ salaries are today. In 1976, tuition was $544 per semester, each credit costing an average of $34. In 2013, tuition at UWL was $4384.52 per semester with each credit costing an average of $400.63. There was an 806% increase in tuition over those thirty-seven years. Over those same thirty-seven years, a professor’s average salary at UWL went from $21,174 to $77,051, this being a 364% increase. These two statistics obviously do not match up, but if they did and professors’ salaries increased proportionally to tuition costs, a professor’s average salary would be, on average, $170,650.
One UWL teacher observed, “people still assume I make over $100,000. I laugh, but I really should be.” If teacher salaries rose proportionally to tuition, this would be the case, however with things like Act 10, public educators have to pay for more benefits without proportional compensation.
Similarly, a UWL sophomore says, “if my tuition is raising but the teachers who are teaching me are not getting paid more, then there might be something more. I want them to want to teach me well.”