West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty Jr. announced Thursday a plan to raise faculty and staff salaries at WVU and its regional campuses an average of 2-3 percent. WVU last implemented a salary improvement plan in October 2002.

The proposed increase, to be implemented Oct. 1 on the Morgantown campus, still needs the approval of both the WVU Board of Governors and Higher Education Policy Commission at their June meetings. The BOG executive committee, meeting by conference call last week, endorsed the preliminary proposal.

Despite several years of severe budget cuts, we have to find a way to address faculty-staff salaries and maintain and reward excellence,Hardesty said.We have a responsibility to invest in quality personneljust like we have a responsibility to invest in facilities and innovative academic programs. We are currently working on a pay proposal that, while difficult to fund, is an important investment in our future.

For faculty and staff on WVU ’s main and health sciences campuses as well as those at the WVU Institute of Technology, the average increase is expected to be 3 percent. Average salary increases at Potomac State College of WVU and WVU Parkersburg will be 2 percent. WVU Parkersburg will implement its plan in July; Potomac State in October and WVU Tech in January.

Hardesty said the funds will come from a combination of cost-saving measures and budget reductions targeted across administrative and academic units. Also, employees whose salaries are funded by grants and auxiliaries will have their salary increases covered through these grants and auxiliaries.

Increased enrollment coupled with growth in research has put a strain on faculty and staff resources, he noted. There are some 500 fewer state-funded positions at WVU and close to $94 million in reduced state appropriations and mandated cost increases as a result of budget cuts over the past several years.

With downsizing in both staffing and state resources, faculty are teaching more classes while still expected to conduct research, keep current in their fields and explore new teaching technologies. Likewise, staff workloads have increased in some cases as much as two- and three-fold, Hardesty said.

In many ways, our faculty help launch the hopes and dreams of our students and their families. Staff also support our studentsfrom offering career and personal counseling to maintaining residential living spaces. We need to retain and reward themto let them know we appreciate and value them. While this salary increase is modest, it is a way to say `thank you’with more than just words.

Figures recently released by the Higher Education Policy Commission indicate that faculty salaries at WVU are 26 percent below American Association of University Professors averages. Staff salaries are also a concern as the economy continues to expand, creating new jobs and competition for highly skilled workers in north central West Virginia.

WVU ’s salary proposal for faculty and non-classified employees will be based on merit, officials say, while raises for classified staff will be based on the state’s salary schedule.