Salaries and employee retention rates highlighted discussions Thursday between heads of the state’s educational institutions – K-12, community colleges and public universities – and legislators serving on special panels looking at state spending.
House Speaker Philip Gunn praised the community colleges for their low five-year attrition rate of around 7 percent for employees, but criticized the large percentage of administrative employees.
“Is there any way to shift those dollars from others into faculty?” Gunn asked, referring to the slightly more than 60 percent of employees who are not considered faculty.
“We’re already operating on bare bones in terms of providing support staff that we must provide, like student service and related activities – business office functions, registration,” responded Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the community college board.
Institutions of Higher Learning Commissioner Glenn Boyce pointed out that Mississippi’s public universities and colleges pay faculty about 88.6 percent of what faculty are paid around the region, up from 86 percent several years ago.
“It’s a challenge for us to hold on to those people for a long, long time” because of the pay factor, Boyce said.
Boyce told the group that of the 5,899 total faculty members at all of the colleges and universities, 1,227 are part-time, or adjunct, professors.
“We could not survive without that group of faculty members,” Boyce said, though he noted the numbers are monitored to ensure adjunct professors aren’t making up a bulk of college faculty statewide.
State Education Superintendent Carey Wright told lawmakers the Mississippi Department of Education has the same issue of employees occasionally leaving for jobs in the private sector with higher pay.
The department’s turnover rate has increased from 10.49 percent in 2011 and 2012 to 17.44 percent in 2015 and 2016, but Wright attributes most of that to the reorganization of the department that took place in 2013 and 2014.
The groups will hold separate sessions on agencies’ travel and contractual services among other subjects. The session was part of the tax and budget working groups announced by the leadership earlier this summer. The working groups will assess the state’s tax structure and 13 state agency budgets.