University rolls out plan to invest in faculty and staff

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- As UW-Eau Claire forges ahead with plans to redevelop the Garfield Avenue corridor, Chancellor James Schmidt is in the final stages of rolling out his plan to invest in the faculty and staff that form the backbone of the university.

“We must do everything we can to keep our great talented workers. Every organization needs to do that and we have put forth a plan to begin to do that,” he said.

The investment is part of the university's 2020 strategic plan. It uses $3 million in general purpose revenue funds saved up to help retain employees. The three pronged approach aims to cut down on increasing faculty turnover by investing $1.4 million in improving salary equity. The university says it's losing many staff to universities outside of the state where pay is higher and class loads are lower. The university will also hand out one-time merit awards based on performance reviews. Lastly, the university will reward staff for projects that support student retention, equity, diversity and inclusivity.

“Our faculty has gone above and beyond to make sure our students do really well. We have to do our part to support them and this is a small down payment that we value them and we want them to stay,” Chancellor Schmidt said.

Chancellor Schmidt fully admits this one-time is not a long-term solution by any means, but he does say it shows staff that the university is committed to keeping them around for the long haul.

“This doesn't fix it, this is a signal that says we value you,” he added.

UW-Eau Claire isn't the only local college struggling to keep faculty on board. UW-STOUT is facing the same issue. A release sent out Wednesday by the polytechnic university says faculty salaries are 22% below universities outside of the state.

Both chancellors are urging the state to adopt a pay plan increase included in the governor's biennial budget. The UW-System Pay Plan would increase pay by 2% in the 2017-2018 fiscal year and 2% in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Local lawmakers say they think the increased funding is essential to having a university that continues to develop quality research and quality students.

“I think a pay increase is long overdue and I have always advocated for the university to have some flexibility in regard to their funding,” Rep. Kathy Bernier said.

“Whatever we can do to maintain these professors, we need to do it,” Rep. Dana Wachs said.

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