Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
On Oct. 1 faculty and staff of the University of La Verne will receive a 2% general pay raise as announced in an email this month from President Pardis Mahdavi and Chief Financial Officer Avo Kechichian.
The raise, which goes to all full- and part-time employees, will be reflected in paychecks of salaried employees on Oct. 10 and hourly employees on Oct. 26.
“Overall, we respect and sincerely appreciate your contributions to ULV,” the Sept. 5 email to faculty and staff read.
About 99% of the University’s operating budget is funded by tuition, plus room and board revenues. Kechichian said the 2% raise had been part of the advance budget planning, but was contingent on the enrollment numbers and tuition revenue for this fall semester.
“Even though we are falling a little short of our revenue projections, we still determined that it was in the best interest of our employees at the institution to move ahead with the 2% compensation increase,” Kechichian said last week.
With a decline of roughly one-third of student enrollments over the last decade, most programs and departments have experienced budget cuts, and salaries for University employees have not kept up with inflation. The inflation rate between 2022 and 2023 alone was 7.9%.
Efforts are being made to expand other revenue sources so that initiatives such as compensation increases can be made, Kechichian said.
“But … we need to do more,” he added.
Compensation not only concerns feasibility of a living wage, but also reflects the element of respect, said Paul Alvarez, professor of kinesiology and Faculty Senate president.
The professors here are being paid about 20% less than what they would be paid at a comparable University, Alvarez said.
“Faculty need to feel appreciated so that we can do a better job at taking care of you guys,” Alvarez said.
In recent years the University has lost faculty members who left for higher paying positions.
This 2% raise is a step in the process of improving compensation for staff and faculty.
“It’s a downpayment on moving forward to a better University of La Verne,” Alvarez added.
Educators have been underpaid for years, particularly when you consider the amount of education, industry experience, research, and preparation required, said Tammy Trujillo, adjunct professor of communications.
“I can’t think of one teacher that doesn’t take it very seriously,” Trujillo said. “Perhaps they count on the fact that we care so much that we’re not going to walk away.”
The University of La Verne with Universities across the nation are facing challenging economic times based partly on the fact that the current generation of college students is smaller than it was 10 years ago, and is still shrinking. Among the smaller pool of potential college students, a growing number are choosing to forgo college as compared with 10 years ago.
The University budget has to be balanced, which means trying to make limited resources go farther.
“The priority should be the people who actually deliver the product… who actually sit in the classroom and teach students,” said Rick Hasse, instructor of accounting and finance and chairman of the faculty budget and compensation committee. “This seems to be – in higher education – a lower priority, and that’s the situation we need to correct.”
Having a new President who is beginning her time here by prioritizing this raise for employees is a step in the right direction, Hasse said.
“We can work together and try to make this better,” Hasse said. “When our employees are loyal and happy they are better workers, better faculty members, and better staff who help you, the students, much better.”
Kelli Makenna Kuttruff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.