Campus Update: Data on Wages, Salaries , Benefits and Total Resources

Dear Faculty and Staff:

Consistent with our core values of transparency and shared governance, we have provided detailed information regarding our budget, the impact of COVID-19, related federal relief and subsequent actions taken over the course of the past several months. I have been encouraged by the thoughtful comments and questions received. In an effort to make sure you have access to the full data, below is a summary of wages, salaries and benefits information over the course of the past seven years during my tenure as president. It is important to understand where we currently are and the steps we have previously taken in order to fully understand how we chart a path forward beyond the current pandemic. How we resource our campus is critical to understanding our success and related challenges, a level of understanding that should reach well beyond our routine administrative leadership and cut across all faculty and staff. 

The attached slides highlight a number of critical points:

  1. Our total investment in wages/salaries/benefits has increased from approximately $252M in FY2016 to $299M in FY20, an 18.7% increase. 
  2. This increase in wages/salaries/benefits was coupled with the lowest increases in tuition/fees (average of 1.4% over the past six years) in our history and easily the lowest in the State of Tennessee over the past seven years. This has, in part, fueled dramatic increases in our graduation rates and growth for the UofM. The last three years have witnessed graduation rates averaging over 50%, with 53.1%, 51.4%, and we will reach 55% this year. Seven years ago, graduation rates were in the low 40’s. Not only has this resulted in dramatically better life circumstances for thousands of our students and for the City of Memphis, it has also helped us achieve and sustain national rankings critical to student recruitment and broader recognition and understanding of the exceptional teaching and research that happens on our campus.
  3. Wages and salaries have improved most significantly over the past six years for those at the lower end of the pay scale, this includes both faculty and staff. You will note the data for significantly improved salaries for assistant and associate professors, the group most frequently recruited to other positions nationally. This was a strategic decision to help facilitate efforts to achieve Carnegie R1 status. Although full professors’ salaries have not increased at a comparable rate, they have continued to increase. When the economic climate improves, we will target this challenge with increased energy.
  4. The majority of growth among the UofM’s highest paid employees has been on the academic side, that is, with faculty at 13 new positions over the past five years, followed by those assigned on the academic leadership side (deans, associate deans), and lastly, two positions in upper level administration. The growth at the dean/associate dean level is the result of turnover in those positions secondary to retirements. In several cases, the salaries of those hired were actually lower, but still above the threshold of $150K. The faculty and dean hires are all part of the Carnegie R1 initiative. Similarly, you will note that our investment in pay for faculty promotions has been at historic highs. It is also important to mention that we have significantly increased wages for adjunct faculty members, including them in annual salary increases for the first time in our history (started 5 years ago). Although they are not where they need to be, we are making progress.
  5. You will also note that our minimum wage has increased dramatically over the past six years. The year before I started, the minimum wage at the UofM was $8.88/hour. We immediately increased it to $10.10/hour and over the past two years, have now increased it to $12/hour, with a clear commitment to continue this trajectory. Overall, our hourly pay has increased 35% over the past six years. Please remember, this is only our starting wage. The number of employees at this starting rate has declined year-over-year. As noted earlier, we remain committed to continuing to invest in improving the wages of our lowest paid colleagues, an effort supported by both the Faculty and Staff Senates.
  6. If you look at total resource increases over the past seven years, we have raised $240M in private funds, invested $252.1M in capital improvements (a detailed list of each project is included below in a footnote), lobbied for and received $55M in new maintenance funds and a $100M increase in our annual budget from approximately $472M to $574M this past year. The new resource investment in our campus over the past seven years totals $647.1M.

Although the level of detail in this message provides more depth than usual, it is critical to understand our overall financial picture, including where we have been, how we got here and where we are going. What is critical is our ability to resource our campus, including students, faculty and staff. This will ultimately determine how well we can accomplish our mission, that is, how well we serve our students, conduct impactful research and contribute to the Memphis community.

It is important to understand that behind every number is a person, a family and a community. As we continue to move forward through this pandemic and meet challenges that will make us stronger on the other side, we will keep the people that make up our community at the forefront. 

Footnote: Capital projects actively underway or recently completed (with private and state funds):

  • Scheidt Family Music Center: $40M
  • Hunter Harrison Memorial Bridge/Parking Garage: $48M
  • Brad R. Martin Student Wellness Center and Plaza: $30M
  • STEM Building: $36M
  • Early Childhood Facility (in partnership with Porter-Leath): $15M
  • Mike Rose Natatorium: $9M
  • Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center: $22M
  • Football facility (I and II): $23M
  • UMRF Ventures: $2M
  • Fogelman Executive Center improvements for University Middle School: $3.1M
  • Elma Roane Fieldhouse improvements: $3.1M
  • Sprague Hall improvements (Lambuth): $6M
  • Madison Academic High School (Lambuth): $18M
  • Total capital investments: $252.1M


Dr. M. David Rudd, President