La Verne faculty and staff pay lags behind inflation

Vincent M. Franco
Staff Writer

In the past two years the rate of inflation has taken a sharp 7.5% increase, while staff and faculty at the University of La Verne have not seen a general, or cost of living, pay raise to correspond with it. 

While some select faculty and staff during the past two years received increases of up to 5 % associated with promotion and tenure or job reclassifications, the University froze general pay increases in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years. 

The University gave employees one-time so-called “appreciation awards” of between $1,000 and $2,000, in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years, but such one-time awards by definition do not increase base salaries. 

“Management … should not be giving pay increases in that way,” said Rick Hasse, instructor of accounting and finance and co-chair of the Faculty Compensation and Budget Committee. 

While these one-time gifts are nice, in the long run, it does not cover for the lack of pay increases needed to meet the cost of living, Hasse said. The school should focus on implementing a pay raise into their annual operating budget, he added.

The last general pay raise, of 2% for all employees, was in the 2019-20 academic year when inflation rates were at 2.5%. 

The University draft budget for the 2022-23 academic year calls for a 2% general increase for full time employees pending approval of the Board of Trustees, Chief Financial Officer Avo Kechician said Wednesday. 

The lack of pay raises during the past two years is the product of multiple influences, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a marked decrease in student enrollment in the University overall, which has amounted to a substantial revenue decline, according to University officials. 

It is hard to give raises if there is no room in the budget, Kechichian said. As an institution running almost 100% on tuition revenue, declining enrollment rates mean the institution is  struggling to make money, Kechichian said. 

According to the database Tableau Public, a platform that publicly shares data such as University enrollment, for the pre-pandemic semester of fall 2019, ULV had a total headcount of 7,396 students, and by fall 2021 that headcount fell to 6,201. Tuition for traditional undergraduates, or TUGs,  is roughly $46,000 a year, though most students receive a more than 50% discount. The University also gets substantial revenue from student housing, which it depends on for a portion of its operating budget. 

From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in spring 2020, through spring 2021, when the University operated mostly remotely, the number of students living in on-campus housing was substantially reduced, as was the housing revenue generated. 

“We did the best we could to try to address holistically student concerns during the pandemic and so I do think that helped us retain relatively stable (TUG) enrollments,” said Mary Aguayo, the University’s vice president of enrollment management.  

Aguayo added that ULV students can expect to see a 2.5% increase in tuition costs by next year, a modest increase compared to the rate of inflation. 

As for general increases – in light of historic inflation – Hasse said he most worried about the hourly, non-tenured staff at the University. 

“It’s the staff that has really been short-changed,” Hasse said. “The staff has not been treated well, and because they are in such fear (of losing) their jobs that they don’t say anything. That’s a problem,” Hasse said.

Christy Ranells, graduate admissions counselor and chair of the University’s administrative professional committee, said she would not be at the University were it not for other benefits and the fact that she is an alumna.

She said she has considered other opportunities, but has stayed because of her sense of loyalty. 

Still she said she would like more transparency and action from the institution to show that employees are being seen when it comes to an increase to their cost of living pay. 

“I think employees are willing to do with less if they feel supported and know that we’re a priority to the administration,” Ranells said.  “But I haven’t felt that way for a few years.”

“We need to have a plan, even if we can’t fund the plan,” Ranells added. “We need to have a plan and show employees that, ‘Hey, things are tight right now… but we do value you and we have this plan for you, and as soon as we can (we’re) going to find this opportunity for staff.’”

“We want to try everything we can, as an institution, in order to make sure that we are giving some sort of an increase in the next fiscal years,” Kechichian added. “How we manage that is a different question. And that’s where I think the whole institution as a whole, faculty, staff, Board of Trustees need to work together,” said Kechichian.

The entire draft budget, with 2% general increases, will go to the Board of Trustees for their approval by the end of this month.

Vincent M. Franco can be contacted at vincent.franco@laverne.edu.

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Vincent M. Franco, a senior visual journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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