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Board of Visitors updates six-year plan

Funding merit-based raises for faculty and staff remained at the top of the priority list in an updated six-year plan approved by the William & Mary Board of Visitors.

The plan, part of an ongoing process that began last year following the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011 (TJ21), outlines funding needs to take a “first step” in bringing faculty salaries to the 60th percentile of the university’s peer institutions as identified by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV).

“The Board is committed to doing more when it comes to recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty,” said Jeffrey B. Trammell, Rector of the College. “By all accounts, we lag significantly behind our peers in terms of resources, including salaries. We must be able to provide more merit-based increases. This plan is a step in the right direction.”

The plan also identifies other key funding priorities for Fiscal Year 2014, including undergraduate and graduate financial aid, additional funding for instructional technology and continued support for enrollment increases that began to be implemented last year. Continued investments in campus security and support for the ongoing business innovation and improvement process are also included. The university began a business innovation process two years ago to identify projects the university can undertake to be more efficient and more effective while reducing overall costs.

Vice President for Finance Sam Jones said the updated six-year plan was informed by three areas -- the goals and objectives of the governor and General Assembly as outlined in the TJ21 legislation, the university’s ongoing strategic planning process, and the College’s own unique role as a "Public Ivy" within the state higher education system.

In his presentation Sept. 21 at the Board’s Committee on Finance, Jones shared data showing where William & Mary ranks with its peers in terms of resources and salaries. For example, the most recent U.S. News & World Report ranking listed William & Mary as tied for 33rd in terms of overall academic quality. But the university’s financial resources ranking, according to U.S. News, was 112th.

“That gap of 79 spaces [between quality and resources] is by far the largest of any of the top 50 ranked universities,” Jones said.

In terms of actual average faculty salaries, W&M currently ranks in the 14th percentile of peer institutions as defined by SCHEV. The state’s articulated goal is to have faculty salaries in the 60th percentile. Jones also shared a chart that showed how average salaries at William & Mary for full professors, associate professors, assistant professors and instructors are well below the averages at the University of Virginia and other peers.

According to the updated six-year plan, more than 50 percent ($5.73 million) of new incremental revenue in 2013-14 will go toward faculty and staff salaries. The plan also provides an increase of $1.8 million for undergraduate student aid and $500,000 more for graduate financial aid. Another $356,000 is devoted to supporting enrollment increases. William & Mary announced in 2011 a plan to add 150 Virginia students and 50 out-of-state students to the undergraduate class. Beginning with the entering class of fall 2011, the additional students are being phased in at approximately 50 new undergraduates per year over a four-year period.

The plan will be funded through a combination of College funds, state funds, reallocated revenue and others dollars identified through the ongoing business innovation and efficiency effort. Last year, Provost Michael R. Halleran asked the university’s five schools (Arts & Sciences, Business, Education, Law and Marine Science) to identify 5 percent of their funds over a three-year period to be reallocated to support faculty salaries.

While the Board approved the updated plan, universities won’t formally adopt operating budgets until the spring semester. Discussion and decisions on tuition were also deferred while the Board continues to evaluate various funding options.

"There is a committment by the Commonwealth, as indicated by the report issued by the Governor's Commission on Higher Education, to 'having a distinctive Public Ivy at William & Mary,'" said Todd Stottlemyer, chair of the Board's Committee on Finance. "This six-year plan helps ensure that remains the case and addresses a number of priorities outlined in the TJ21 legislation. Providing Virginia families with a more predictable tuition model -- including more financial aid for students from middle-class households -- are important pieces to a new business model. We'll be working on ths together."