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Higher ed officials decline comment on pay raises

April 5, 2012

The Board of Governors for Higher Education will not be responding – at least not publicly – to Governor Lincoln Chafee’s concerns about a raise for state college and university employees.

The Office of Higher Education says it is against board policy to comment on ongoing contract negotiations.

Chafee has called a new union contract proposal “unacceptable” because it provides a three percent raise for college employees at a time when state retirees are taking pension cuts and students are being asked to pay more for tuition.

The governor’s statement:

I strongly object to this contract proposal, which would provide a 3% compounded raise for 3 years at a time when other state employees are making daily financial sacrifice, when taxpayers of our state are under severe strain, and when families with students attending our public institutions of higher education are facing tuition increases of 9.5% at URI, 7.5% at CCRI, and 4% at RIC.

It’s not that these fine faculty and staff members don’t deserve a raise, but when other state employees have seen their COLAs cut and their pensions altered, this is an issue of basic fairness and common sense.

Higher education officials declined to give specifics on the contract proposal at issue, but the Providence Journal reports that it involves four separate contracts, covering faculty and graduate students at the University of Rhode Island and professional staff at Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.

Governor Chafee says he is looking into how a pay raise for state college and university staff came to be part of a contract now awaiting approval from the higher education board.

In general, university officials cite continuing declines in state funding for higher education and rising personnel and other costs as the main reasons for annual tuition increases. Lorne Adrain, the chairman of the board of higher education, has said in the past that he is looking into potential cost saving measures and is very concerned about the tide of tuition increases.

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