Press "Enter" to skip to content

NC salary increase request illustrates community college challenge

North Carolina’s legislature passes a budget authorization once every two years. 2023 is a budget year in the Tarheel State. The North Carolina Community College System is seeking an additional $232M in the new budget to pay for employee salary increases and improvements to student services.

In the current contract, the employee raises amounted to 2.5% during each budget year. Additionally, community college employees received an across-the-board 1% salary increase last year. The planned raise for the coming fiscal years will provide approximately the same percentage increase.

And therein lies the problem. “Industry” doesn’t have a problem reacting to changes in the labor market. The average annual raise in 2022 was 7.6%. In North Carolina, the average raise in 2022 was an eye-popping 9.2%. (NC wasn’t the state with the largest annual salary increase; that honor goes to Florida (10.8%). In case you’re wondering, Michigan’s average salary increase in 2022 was 6.2%.

Public sector administrators are so worried about the optics of giving workers a raise that reflects the going rate (or at least addresses inflation) that they arbitrarily cap wage increases below the inflation rate. The result is that workers effectively take a pay cut to keep their jobs. Incredibly enough, administrators don’t seem to have a problem understanding how free market wages, bonuses, benefits, and salary increases apply to their own compensation packages.

The standard 1%-2% annual wage increase for community college employees (in North Carolina or anywhere else) isn’t going to work for them when the annual inflation rate is 8%. Community colleges will have trouble hanging on to their teachers and staffers, when employers in the open market have a pronounced affinity for their skills and experience.

President’s salary increase should be the bargaining pattern for other employees

WCC will be negotiating contracts with three unions on campus this year. My only hope for the unions is that they remember that the Trustees had no problem increasing Rose Bellanca’s compensation by more than 15.5% over three years, while everyone else’s compensation increased by about 6%. Additionally, the union negotiators should remember that the WCC Board of Trustees has approved a compensation package for the current president that is larger than the compensation packages of the presidents of the largest and most complex community colleges in the state.

And, of course, if the college can afford a dozen Vice Presidents, and it can afford to apply $4M in federal COVID relief to cover the losses at the Health and Fitness Center, it can afford better compensation for its full-time teaching and support staffs, as well as its adjunct instructors.

In other words, it’s time for the unions on WCC’s campus to kiss the traditional 1.5% increase goodbye.

Photo Credit: Bart Heird , via Flickr