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2013 January 21 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Extra Assignments Boost Wis. Technical College Pay

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Full-time instructors in Wisconsin technical colleges took home an average of $90,000 last year in base pay and overages, slightly more than the $86,000 in compensation for professors at the 13 University of Wisconsin universities, according to a published report.

Overages, which refer to additional teaching assignments, averaged about $12,000 for technical college professors but only $1,400 per UW professor, according to a Gannett Wisconsin Media report.

Terry Fleischman, an instructor at Fox Valley Technical College, nearly doubled his $88,000 salary through overages. And Deb Seline, who teaches at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, supplemented her $85,000 base salary with nearly $121,000 in overage pay.

Some argue that allowing professors to accumulate overages saves money by avoiding the need to hire additional workers. Others say the system limits staff diversity and allows for outsized compensation packages.

Taking on overages isn’t necessarily easy. Seline said she aggressively pursued the extra work in the 2011-12 school year because of impending economic uncertainty. She estimated she worked as many as 15 hours per day, seven days a week, grading papers and answering about 150 emails daily.

“It was the year from hell, because all I did was grade papers,” Seline said. “It was not fun, but it was an opportunity that I took advantage of.”

Susan May, the Fox Valley Technical College president, defended Fleischman’s total compensation of $163,581, second at the college only to her salary of $200,910. She said he agreed to teach extra sessions beyond his normal contract, took on a major development project and covered for another instructor on medical leave.

She also said that as budgets have tightened, the school has opted to give heavier workloads to current faculty rather than bring in new hires.

“The fringe benefits are already paid,” she said. “It’s more cost-effective to do that than to hire another person when we may not be able to sustain the position longer term.”

Fleischman did not return a message seeking comment.

While some technical colleges embraced an accelerated use of overages, at least one worked to limit the practice. At Western Technical College in La Crosse, instructors averaged only $2,470 in overages in the last academic year, the lowest in the state.

Western tries to limit overages by hiring additional contracted or part-time staff, said Mike Pieper, the college’s vice president of finance and operations. He said that gives instructors a better work-life balance and gives students access to a more diverse faculty.

“If we’re limiting opportunities to bring people on because we’re doing so much with overloads, we think we just limit our opportunities again for a new voice, another set of eyes, someone that can help us move the college forward,” Pieper said.

In 2011-12, 51 professors at UW-Madison earned at least $250,000. Even so, full-time faculty, including full, associate and assistant professors, averaged $106,000 overall. That’s $5,000 less than the average instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College made, including overages.

That underscores a trend that the UW System has warned about for years — that UW professors are underpaid. A UW salary study using 2011-12 data found that UW professors were paid 27 percent less than the media at 11 comparable universities.

David Giroux, a spokesman for the UW System, noted that professors at research-oriented schools such as UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison do more than teach — they also bring in millions of dollars in outside research funding that’s used to employ dozens of other people.

“There’s great risk with us tolerating lagging salaries for any length of time,” he said, “because then we start losing not only the human talent but also the resources they’ve attracted.”

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