WKU to increase part-time faculty pay grades


Michael Crimmins, Administration reporter

Western Kentucky University Provost Robert “Bud” Fischer announced in an email, sent April 10, a 30% increase in part-time faculty pay grades effective fall 2023.

“As most of you know, WKU has not kept pace with our peer institutions as the part-time faculty compensation structure has remained stagnant for 13 years,” Fischer’s email stated. 

Unlike full-time faculty, who are appointed to serve a specific discipline or academic program and are compensated annually for that service, part-time faculty are contracted to teach courses on behalf of WKU on a semester-by-semester basis and are compensated at a specific rate based on the instructor’s education, teaching experience and specialized certifications and/or licensures.

According to the provost’s email, WKU has attracted and retained “highly qualified faculty” through competitive compensation, increasing faculty compensation by 3.5% over the prior two years as well as providing additional compensation “where needed to ensure all full-time faculty are compensated at 80% of the midpoint of their tier.” 

Included in his email is the “WKU part-time faculty compensation rates” that divides compensation into five grades all with their own qualifications including credit hours and college degrees. 

The fifth grade includes full-time faculty who teach a summer or winter term class or emeritus professors teaching part-time.

“I am grateful to our deans for their commitment to invest in improving salaries across the university and for acting now to address this serious issue in part-time faculty compensation,” the email states. “Please know that compensation continues to be a top priority for WKU.”

This pay increase was commended by James Barker, assistant professor of religious studies, in an email sent in response to Fischer’s email.

“First and foremost, I commend you and the wider administration for allotting this 30% increase in pay grades for our part-time faculty, who by and large are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated,” Barker’s email said. “I give credit where credit is due, and this pay raise is much needed and long overdue.”

Barker also broadly questioned the universities compensation, stating that even though “full-time faculty are compensated at 80% of the midpoint of their tier” the university is ranked “dead last” in compensation compared to similar institutions in 2021.

“For example, if $60K is the midpoint of a faculty member’s tier (approximately the base salary of an Assistant Professor 1), then WKU might be paying that faculty member just $48K,” the email stated. “In other words, such a faculty member would need a 25% raise merely to attain average pay. I would hope that our institution could, at the very least, strive for mediocrity in this area.”

This comes after the Board of Regents, in its committee meeting on April 14, approved salary increases for 161 faculty and staff members, 34 of whom received a 10% raise or higher. 

Included in the increases were Tyson Jacob Summers, an assistant for men’s football, who received a 50% raise, going from $200,000 to $300,000, effective Jan. 1, 2023. While the provost said the two are unrelated, the sports area is a place where “WKU appears to excel at compensation,” Barker said.

“To take but one example, our recently resigned head basketball coach will reportedly earn $500K not to work at WKU for the next twelve months; that is more salary than I will have earned in nine combined years as a full-time faculty member at WKU,” Barker’s email read.

The Herald reached out to Fischer several times via email but he did not provide a response. 

“In conclusion, I once again commend you and the administration for your work on behalf of our highly valued part-time faculty,” Barker said in an email. “It is my hope that the administration will take seriously just how much work and re-prioritization is still needed for WKU truly to offer ‘competitive total compensation’ for all faculty.”

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected].