HESA

Higher Education Strategy Associates

Category Archives: salaries

July 28

Coming Soon to Ontario: a British Columbia Solution

Unless you’ve been out of the country, or under a rock, for the last couple of years, you’ll be at least vaguely familiar with the concept that the province of Ontario is broke.  So broke, in fact, that it has departed radically from previous practice and, back in 2012, effectively froze physicians’ pay for two years.  Not individual physicians, of course – but on aggregate.  A zero overall increase.  And the government is now working to try to extend this freeze for another couple of years.

That makes good sense.  Health care costs have historically risen at several percentage points above inflation, and have squeezed other parts of the provincial budget (education has held out OK, all things considered, but other budget lines have been less well-protected), and physician costs are a major item in the health care budget.  And so saving money in this area is to be welcomed, even if it is at the expense of physicians – who are a politically tricky group to offend.

So what might the provincial government think of the post-secondary sector handing its employees raises of 3-4% per year, on aggregate?  Do you think aggrieved doctors won’t point to this anomaly during this pay round?  Can you imagine any possible rejoinder the government could offer that would make the least bit of sense?

Don’t you think maybe this situation is about to come to a rather sudden end?

For whatever reason, universities in Ontario have not been able to resist rising wage pressure from full-time faculty.  Despite money getting tighter, they have felt compelled to sign agreements that are plainly beyond their means (Hel-LO, University of Ottawa!).  Some university presidents, unable to deal with this problem on their own, are saying that they need government to step in to play “bad cop”.

What does the “bad cop” look like?  Well, take a look at how BC has handled wage negotiations over the last few years.  There, universities (and all other public sector entities) are given a biennial mandate with respect to employee negotiations.  In 2010 and 2011, the deal was: negotiate what you like, but the net cost of any new compensation deal cannot exceed zero.  In 2012 and 2013, that was changed to: there could be increases, but they had to be balanced dollar-for-dollar with efficiency savings in other areas.  The 2010-11 arrangements, in conception at least, are close to the approach Ontario has taken with its physicians.  And it worked pretty well, at least in the sense that it has kept costs down with a minimum of political fuss.

Not everyone in Ontario agrees that the province needs to take the bad cop approach.  Quite a number of university presidents (you can probably guess which ones) oppose asking the province to legislate on their behalf; not only do they feel it morally incumbent on universities to manage their own books, but also it is tactical suicide to ask governments to legislate – once you go down that road, there’s no telling where they’ll stop micromanaging universities’ affairs.

The problem is, those presidents haven’t exactly been too successful at reigning-in costs, either (hello again, University of Ottawa!).  So it seems almost inevitable that some sort of BC-like solution is on the cards.  The idea that profs could gain 15% in salary over four years, while physicians get zero, simply isn’t politically tenable.

June 02

Bad Memory

Some really sobering stuff in a paper I just got from Statscan called, “Job Market Realities for Post-Secondary Graduates”.  Listen to this:

  • “Graduates of a field with low unemployment and little underemployment were also likely to earn high salaries and be content with their jobs.  They were usually graduates of job-oriented fields such as engineering, teacher training, most health disciplines, business, computer science and some technologies.”
  • “A more general education in subjects with little practical application often (leads) to a lower-paid job which made little use of knowledge and skills acquired during the years of study… those who fared worst held degrees/diplomas in fine and applied arts, humanities and social sciences and some of the sciences.”
  • “Many trades, which do not require post-secondary education, pay better than some occupations held by postsecondary graduates, especially office work.”
  • “Newfoundland offered the highest starting salaries, with Saskatchewan a close second.”
  • “Half of all bachelor’s graduates planned to go back to school within two years.”

Enraging what decades of neo-liberalism has done to our education system, huh?  Why can’t we go back to the 70s when everyone had a job, humanities and social science graduates weren’t undervalued and everyone had a job?

Oh, wait, hang on.  This survey is from the 1970s!  In fact, all of this is from the two-year follow-up of the university and college graduating classes of 1976 (the forerunner of the current National Graduates Survey).

Turns out the 1970s weren’t quit the bonanza that some folks like Generation Squeeze like to make it out.  For the class of 1976 in Ontario, the unemployment rate 2 years out for university graduates was 8%.  For the class of 2010, it was 5%.  Average salary 2 years out for the class of 1976 was $14,600, or $47,300 in 2012 dollars.  For the class of 2012, the equivalent figure was $49,277.  In 1978, 80% of recent grads said their job had a relationship with their field of study.  In 2012?  82%.

I could go on here, but you get the picture.  There’s very little going on for graduates in the labour market that wasn’t going on forty years ago.  Back then, we were also in a resource boom, and trades looked good compared to Arts and Science.  Jobs in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan looked pretty good compared to jobs in Ontario (we don’t know about Quebec because back during the first PQ government, Quebec institutions weren’t allowed to participate in national studies like this).  This is just a phase we go through.

Of course, some people may look at this result and see stagnation.  Graduates only getting a $2,000 raise in 40 years!   But this is to miss the point almost entirely.  In 1978, the participation rate at Canadian universities was around 10%; we’re now just over 30%.  That is to say, even accounting for population growth, there are three times as many young people getting salaries which, on average, are the same as the coddled, easy-going graduates of the mid-70s.

Nostalgia makes us look at the past with rose-coloured glasses.  But it’s no basis for making policy.  Look past the soft-focus gauze and the rantings of the hell-in-a handbasket crowd: the fact is, our grads are doing as well as they have at any time in the last 40 years.  We should celebrate that.

April 16

Rewind on Those Foley/Green Numbers

So, you may remember that last week I published this neat little graph from the National Graduates Survey, showing university and graduate incomes across all ten provinces, three years after graduation.  Note that although the numbers vary by province, the university number is always higher than the college number.

Median Earnings of College and Bachelor’s Graduates Three Years After Graduation, in 2013

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The super-keen among you may also remember something I wrote three weeks ago, about a paper by Kelly Foley and David Green, which I summarized thusly:

“In Ontario and Quebec, returns to education are what you’d expect: higher for graduate degrees than for Bachelors, which in turn are higher than for college diplomas.  But it turns out that both in the Atlantic and in the West, the returns to college education are actually higher than the returns to university.  Indeed, in western Canada they are even higher than they are for graduate studies.”

How can both be true ?  Basically, it’s because they’re using slightly different definitions of university and college.

Here’s the issue: Foley and Green used the Labour Force Survey data.  That’s quite a different source of data from NGS.  For instance, it includes graduates of foreign universities, who tend to make less than those educated locally. There’s not many of these in the 25-29 category, but it does reduce the university number a bit.

But the major reason is this: Foley and Green included “trades certificates and apprenticeships” in their definition of college.  At one level that’s fair enough, because most (though not all) of the technical training that occurs in apprenticeships occurs in colleges.  But on the other hand, it does obscure some important differences between the two.

Start with income.  Ten years ago, males 25-29 holding trade certificates and college diplomas made almost the same amount; now, there’s an enormous gap.

Median Weekly Wages, Males Aged 25-29

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Now, look at the distribution by region of Foley/Green’s “college” population.  In Ontario, less than 20% of this population holds a trade or apprenticeship credential; in Alberta it’s over 35%.

Distribution of College/Trade Credentials Among Males 25-29, Ontario and Alberta (Source: National Household Survey)

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So, to summarize: Within the Foley/Green description of college graduates there are two distinct groups, one of whom makes more than the other.  And the better-off group is more prevalent in the west than it is in Central Canada.  So it’s not that young Western Canadian male college diploma holders are better off than young Western Canadian male university bachelor’s graduates, it’s that young Western Canadian males who received training in colleges are better off than young Western Canadian male university bachelor’s graduates.

I hope that’s clear.

This college/trade advantage disappears relatively quickly after age 30, but I’ll get to that another time.

March 06

Sessionals

The plight of sessional lecturers (or, as they call them in the US, “adjuncts”) is possibly the only issue in higher education that generates even more overblown rhetoric than tuition fees.  Any time people start evoking slavery as a metaphor, you know perspective has flown the coop.

Though data on sessional numbers in Canada are non-existent, no one disputes that their numbers are rising, and that they are becoming an increasingly central part of major universities’ staffing plans.  In large Ontario universities, it’s not uncommon for certain faculties to have 40-50% of their total credit hours taught by sessionals.  Wage data is scarce, too, though last year University Affairs produced a worthwhile survey on sessionals’ working conditions.  The numbers vary from place to place, but let’s just say that relying solely on sessional wages must be pretty challenging.

A problem in generalizing about sessionals is that they come in two distinct varities.  First are the mid/late-career professionals who already make good money from full-time employment elsewhere, and who help provide relevant, up-to-date content based on practical experience in programs like Law and Nursing.  For them, sessional teaching is a way to pick up an extra cheque, and maybe have some fun doing it. Outside Arts & Science, this is the dominant model of sessionals, and universities are much the better for their presence.

In Arts & Sciences, on the other hand, sessionals are much more likely to be recent PhD graduates looking to get a foothold on the academic ladder.  Unable for the moment to make the tenure track, taking multiple sessional gigs lets them stay within the university system, but prevents them from doing what they (and indeed the entire higher ed system) value most: research.  As a result, being a sessional can sometimes take one further from the tenure track, rather than closer to it.  The sessional “crisis”, needless to say, focuses on this latter group, rather than on the professionals.

What’s truly bizarre about the discourse on sessionals are the frankly conspiratorial views of the cause of the “crisis”.  But there’s no mystery here: universities, for the most part, get paid by governments and students according to how much teaching they do; despite this, they pay their academic staff to spend roughly half their time doing stuff other than teaching.  Unsurprisingly, this results in there being more teaching duties than available teaching time.  Hence the need for sessionals (a need that has only grown larger as research has increased in importance).

And why is their pay so low?  Partly, it’s a free market and there’s a heck of a lot of people willing to do academic work for very little pay.  But partly it’s because institutions have a conscious choice to prioritize pay rises for existing full-time staff (gotta pay more for research excellence!) over hiring new full-time staff. Had pay levels stayed constant in real terms over the last 15 years, and the surplus gone into hiring, the need for sessionals in Arts & Science would be practically nil.

Basically, no one “decided” to create an academic underclass of sessionals.  Rather, they are an emergent property of a system where universities mostly earn money for teaching, but spend a hell of a lot of it doing research.

March 05

The Long-Term Benefits of Higher Education

A very good Statscan report came out last week, and didn’t get nearly enough attention.  Authored by the excellent Marc Frenette, it’s called, An Investment of a Lifetime? The Long-term Labour Market Outcomes Associated with a Post-Secondary Education, and it deserves a wide readership.

What Frenette did was link the 1991 census file to the Longitudinal Worker File (LWF), which integrates data from Records of Employment, annual T1 and T4 files, and some data on employers as well, for a 10% random sample of all Canadian workers.  From this, he created a sample of about 8,000 people who were born in Canada between 1955 and 1957 (i.e. who were about 35 years old at the time of the census), and who held jobs in 18 out of 20 years since then. From this, he worked out what the added value of university and college credentials were over that period.

Figure 1 shows earnings by education level.  For men between the ages of 35 and 55, the added benefit of a college education (vs. high school) was $153,000; for a university education it was $445,000 (for women, the figures were $115,000 and $280,000).  In addition to higher salaries, higher levels of education were also associated with higher levels of union membership, and lower frequency of layoffs.

Figure 1: Net Present Value of 20-Year Earnings of Canadian-Born Workers, by Level of Education

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Figure 1 isn’t exactly ground-breaking; more education = more money, and more so for men than women.  Where it gets interesting is when the results are disaggregated by gender, and attention is paid not just to means and medians but also at the distributional tails.  Figure 2 compares the wage premiums at various percentiles for female college and university graduates, over high school graduates in the equivalent percentiles.

Figure 2: Cumulative Additional 20-Year Earnings for Female College and University Graduates, at Selected Percentiles

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Figure 2 shows three things.  First, women with university degrees make more money than those with college or high school across all percentiles.  Second, that said, down around the 5th-10th percentile, the premiums are so low that it’s really not clear that women are better off with higher education.  And third, the premium for higher education really flattens out above the median – which, as Figure 3 shows, is not even vaguely the case for men.

Figure 3: Cumulative Additional 20-Year Earnings for Male College and University Graduates, at Selected Percentiles

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Crazy stuff.  Recall from Figure 1 that average gains for men were significantly higher than for women.  But Figure 2 and Figure 3 show that the median gains – those at the 50th percentile – are about the same.  The difference is that among males, the top ten percent – and especially the top five percent – are reaping astronomical rewards from higher education.

The last amazing thing in the paper has to do with how men and women with bachelor’s degrees fare comparatively in the public and private sectors.  And the numbers there are astonishing: in the bottom ten percentiles in the private sector, women are making less money, cumulatively, than their counterparts with just high-school education.  But what’s really interesting here is the fact that in the public sector, at least, women actually reap higher gains than men.

Figure 4: Median Cumulative Additional Earnings for Male and Female University Graduates in Public and Private Sectors

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Nitpickers will likely snub this study – it deals with a cohort that finished school 35 years ago, it doesn’t disaggregate by field of study, etc.  But methodologically, it points to ways to conduct future studies (we could do the same with a shorter period for 25 year-olds in the 2001 census, for instance), and substantively it gives us a lot to chew on, not only in terms of average earnings, but also with the distribution of those earnings.  Kudos to Marc for this work.

February 13

“Comparability” in Salaries

Come salary negotiation time, every faculty union wants to be paid based on what “comparable” universities are getting.  It was a huge point in the UNB strike, it continues to be one in the Mount Allison strike, and presumably it will be one at U Winnipeg as well (the strike deadline is February 24).

There are three problems with the notion of “comparability”.  The first is obvious: finding genuinely comparable institutions.  On what, exactly, do you compare?  Size? Mission?  Teaching loads?  Research output?  There are number of plausible metrics here, but when choosing “comparable” schools the metric for comparability is never entirely transparent.  And the problem is that in the absence of rigorous metrics, faculty unions might simply try to find official “comparators” that are significantly more prestigious (and better-paid) than themselves, because then they’ll look worse by comparison, and hence be deserving of a larger raise.  Cue round after round of salary gains.

There is, of course, a simple way to stop this kind of gaming: institute a rule that if one institution is going to be considered a comparator to another, both sets of faculty unions must agree.  That is, for the faculty association of (for instance) UNB to be permitted to claim that Queen’s and Waterloo are “comparable” institutions for the purpose of salary, the faculty associations at Queen’s and Waterloo would: a) have to agree that UNB is a comparable institution; and, b) include UNB as a salary comparator in their negotiations.  This form of gaming would stop PDQ.

The second solution is slightly wonkish, and has to do with seniority and salary grids.  Let’s say two institutions are genuinely indistinguishable from one another and have identical pay grids, but at one the staff tends to be older and have more years of employment, and hence are paid better due to seniority. Could the university with the more junior staff claim the need for a raise because of “comparability”?  Real-life example: average pay at every single rank at UNB is about $10K behind the equivalent at Dalhousie, but because UNB staff are on average much more likely to be full profs on higher salaries, the average salary of all profs across each institution looks about the same.  Leaving aside the institutional comparability issue for a second, UNB profs have a legitimate argument about being underpaid.  But if they get a raise, then the administration has a legitimate concern about overpaying in total for professorial services.  See?  Trickier than it looks.

But say these two technical problems are solved: say you’ve found genuinely comparable universities and you can get over the problem of staff heterogeneity. There’s still going to be the problem of affordability.  A Mexican or Costa Rican university might declare itself comparable to a Canadian one, but that doesn’t mean it can afford to pay its staff on a similar basis.  Similarly, within Canada, not every institution is equally well-funded.  McGill and Alberta are comparable institutions in many respects, but one’s in Alberta and one’s in Quebec.  No prizes for guessing which one’s profs make 10% more than the other, on average.  And striking about it, even if that were something McGill profs ever did, wouldn’t change that one bit.

February 04

Presidential Salaries

One perennial meme in higher education is that presidential pay is sky-rocketing, at the expense of salaries elsewhere in the institution.  Latest example: news from England this month of university heads getting raises of $30-40,000, while opposing hikes in staff pay, which certainly looks a little piggish.  But what about here in Canada?

I showed in this post last year that Canadian presidential pay is significantly lower than it is at comparable public universities in the United States, Australia, and the UK.  And two years ago, I showed (using data from Nova Scotia only) that although Senior Administrative pay has risen more steeply than professorial pay over the last half-decade, the rate of increase is only about 25% higher than for that of professors.  But let’s take another, more national look at this.

The data below comes from the CAUT Almanac.  I’ve taken data from the 48 institutions where data was available for both 2006 and 2011, and for at least three of the four intervening years.  Here’s what the presidential salaries looked like between 2006 and 2011 (latest available data):

Figure 1: Average Presidential Salaries in Canada, in Nominal $

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(If you’re at a big university, these numbers probably look impossibly low; no U-15 university President has a salary below $350,000, for instance.  Just remember: the average includes presidents of quite small universities, too).

Figure 1 shows some pretty jerky upward movement.  2007 saw an 11% jump, followed by increases of 1%, 5%, 1%, and 4%, for an average of 4.7% per annum over five years.   For professors during roughly the same period (2006-7 to 10-11) the increase was about 3.1% per annum.  But if you look at year-on-year salaries, you’ll find that there is some enormous inter-institutional variation in Presidential compensation.  In fact, in 2011, Presidential pay for sitting Presidents was as likely to fall as it was to rise.

Distribution of Salary Increases for Sitting Presidents, 2011

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The key to understanding rising Presidential compensation in Canada is this: the big ratchets in pay don’t accrue to sitting Presidents.  If you just look at the 11 Presidents who sat continuously from January 2006 to December 2011, and whose salary data is public, their pay only rose on average by 3.1% per year – that is, by exactly the same amount as professorial pay.  The ratchet effect occurs much more often at the start of contracts, when the new President takes a starting salary that is significantly above that of the previous incumbent.

Are Presidents overpaid? Maybe.  But their rates of salary increase aren’t significantly out of line with other university staff.

January 09

The Salaries Problem

I’ve made a few key points over the last couple of days:

1)      Canadian Universities will be lucky if they keep being able to increase their incomes by 3% per year, holding enrolments constant.

2)      The kinds of salary settlements we have seen recently at Canadian universities, if allowed to continue, will eat up easily 70-80% of that income, maybe more, leaving precious little left over for IT, infrastructure, etc.

3)      It’s not a problem of administrative bloat.  The ratio of academic salaries to non-academic ones hasn’t changed in over a decade.

To put it bluntly, this isn’t sustainable.  Things have to change.

Could the solution be on the revenue side?  Certainly, that’s part of the current problem.  Over the past two years, things have been pretty dire for higher education, with institutions only receiving about 0.45% per year in government funding increases.  That might improve a bit in some provinces over the next year or two, but my guess would be that both Ontario and Quebec will see significant cuts in the 2015 budget cycle, once they’ve both had elections.  So that’s not in the cards.

Ask students to pay more?  That would make oodles of sense in many places (especially Alberta, BC, and Quebec), but it’s a tough sell in a recession.  To the extent this is possible, it will be for professional Master’s programs, which are going to spread like mushrooms.

Admit more students?  Well, that would work in some places, but not east of the Ottawa River, where things are drying up.  International students are always a very viable alternative, though it’s not clear that every institution is equally suited to acting (as Brad DeLong recently wrote in a delightfully bitchy post about the University of California) as finishing schools for the superrich of Asia.

That leaves expenditure – the largest and fastest-rising bit of which is salaries.  And here there are only three options: cut jobs, cut salaries, or some combination of the two.  Tenure limits institutions’ ability to do the former (to academics, at least), so that suggests that restraint on the salary side is where the action is going to have to be.

It’s not even a matter of cutting salaries.  It’s about getting the rate of salary increase back down to where it historically was for most of the 70s, 80s and 90s.  The 2000s saw an historically unprecedented rise in professorial salaries, as shown by Figure 1:

Figure 1: Median Academic Salaries, Canada Real $2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More relevant for university finances was the fact that average salaries were increasing even faster than the median during the 2000s – 18% in real dollars vs. 11% for the median.

Figure 2: Average Academic Salaries, 2001-2 and 2009-10, in Real $2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know the good old days everyone talks about?  Maybe they were good precisely because salaries weren’t cannibalizing the rest of the budget.  Something to think about, anyway.

January 08

Administrative Bloat?

If there’s one common complaint among academic staff it’s that non-academic staff… administrators… are multiplying like weeds, and taking over the university.  Of course, no one can tell if this is actually happening because Canadian universities have never bothered to put together any common statistics on non-academic staff.

What we do have, though, is data on non-academic staff compensation – that is, we can see how much non-academic staff were paid in any given year, and track that over time.  We can then compare that to how much money was spent on academics.  These changes in compensation ratios are a reasonable indicator of changes in staffing levels, even if we don’t know exactly how many people are employed in these positions.

Going back to 1979, the ratio of academic to non-academic staff compensation looks like this:

Figure 1: Ratio of Academic to Non-Academic Staff Compensation, 1979-2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: CAUBO/Statscan Financial Information of Universities and Colleges Survey

What Figure 1 means is that, whereas in 1979, total academic salary mass was 17% higher than non-academic salary mass, by 2011, it was 7% lower.  Interestingly, there’s actually been no change at all in the past decade: the ratios have remained essentially stable since about 2000.  Before that, they fell gradually for about 20 years (the apparent huge fall in 1999 was the result of a change in the survey that – as I understand it – brought academic salary mass more fully into the picture, which obviously would have a negative effect on these ratios.  So in fact, about a third of the change seen here is actually just the result of a series break).

Of course, averages are one thing – but they can hide a heck of a lot of variation between institutions.  Here’s the distribution of non-academic to academic salary masses for 2011, across all institutions:

Figure 2: Distribution of Academic : Non-Academic Salary Mass Ratios by Institution, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: CAUBO/Statscan Financial Information of Universities and Colleges Survey

In fact, a majority of institutions still have ratios above 1.0 (meaning they spend more on academic staff than on non-academic staff); it’s just that some of the country’s biggest institutions have ratios below 0.9, and they drag the average down considerably.

But that’s still not quite the whole story.  Take a look at the top and bottom ten institutions on this measure:

Table 1: Top and Bottom Ten Institutions Based on Academic : Non-Academic Staff Salary Mass Ratios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: CAUBO/Statscan Financial Information of Universities and Colleges Survey

Looking at the left-hand column, the secret to spending less on non-academic staff seems simple: just be a small institution with no major science programs (Sherbrooke is an anomaly).  That makes intuitive sense if your hypothesis is that the big contributor to the growth in non-academic salaries is the growth of universities’ research function.  The problem is, a lot of very similar universities are also in the right-hand column.  Ste. Anne and Emily Carr are practically identical to St. Boniface and OCAD – so why the enormous differences?  Royal Roads’ and TELUQ’s low ratios are easy to understand because of their reliance on IT – so too is Toronto, with its enormous research overheads.  But ENAP?  Trinity Western?  What’s going on there?

The answer is, we don’t know.  Much of the U-15 universities tend to cluster between .95-.75 on this measure, but apart from that, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason to how much institutions spend on academics vs. non-academics.  And yet it has a pretty big effect on institutions’ bottom lines.  It’s a puzzle worth trying to solve.

January 06

The New Normal

Happy New Year!  Did everyone have a great vacation?

The highlight of my vacation was going to Argentina and stumbling upon the world’s most unfortunately-named university in a suburb of Buenos Aires, named “Morón”.  It’s called – wait for it – Unversidad de Morón.  Seriously, their international marketing people must have the most difficult jobs in higher ed.

Anyhow, I wanted to start the year by talking about what was a hopeful development from last fall – the Government of New Brunswick’s decision to pre-announce university funding increases for the next two years.  Instead of waiting for provincial budget-time to make an announcement (which, quite honestly, is far too late for institutions needing to do serious planning), the government pre-announced not one but two(!) years’ worth of future increases: 2% for 2014-15, and another 2% for 2015-16.  And they also told institutions they could raise domestic undergraduate tuition by 3% for each of the next two years.  Assuming no big increase in domestic or international student numbers, that means the university can count on overall budget increases of around 2.33%.

Great news, right?  Guaranteed new money!

Put the champagne down, guys.  2.33% still isn’t enough to keep pace.  Cutbacks will inevitably follow.  To understand why, let’s look at professorial pay.

UNB profs are currently without a contract – and indeed are very close to a strike on the issue.  But their previous four-year contract was a fairly generous one.  It moved the salary grid upwards by (on average) 2.4% per year, plus everyone not at the top of their pay grade got annual bumps of (on average) about $1300/year.  What percentage that works out to in total depends on where your place is in the pay grid, but for new associate professors, on average, it was about 4% per year on the nose.

So, 4% in total on academics pay.  Benefits tend to scale at the same rate, as does non-academic pay, so 4% on those, too.  At most Canadian universities, salaries and benefits are about 60% of all expenditures.  Multiply that out – 60% times 4% = 2.4%, and right there we’ve already used up slightly more than the entire announced increase in funding.

That is to say: if labour contracts continue to play out the way they have over the past four years, there is exactly no money left over for anything else.  But since inflation erodes buying power, that actually implies ongoing cutbacks of all non-salary items of about 2% per year.  And that’s the best case scenario for a university, since I think few provinces will be as generous as New Brunswick this year.

The reality, then, is this: either staff pay settlements have to start coming into line with increases in institutional income, or the new normal is going to be continuing pay hikes, combined with annual cutbacks in all non-salary items.

That’s the math, and there’s no escaping it.

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