RALEIGH (October 6, 2022) – North Carolina is rated the No. 1 state in the nation for business.1 Then why can’t we do a better job paying the people who train our workers?
Community colleges are at the heart of training North Carolina’s workforce for several big incoming employers: Apple. Google. Boom Supersonic. VinFast. Wolfspeed (formerly Cree). And yes, Toyota.2 Not to mention thousands of homegrown companies that are already here.
Yet at last count in 2020-21, average salaries for NC community college instructors ranked 41st in the nation.3 We pay our community-college faculty less than Alabama, South Carolina and yes – even Mississippi.4
What don’t we get?
These are the people we expect – and we promised – would train North Carolinians to work for big-name, international companies.
Yet what we pay them is an embarrassment – will the students make more than their instructors? That does in fact happen in high-demand fields like nursing.5
The State Board of Community Colleges recognizes the problem. The Board adopted a measured plan this year to ask state legislators for an additional $96 million over three years for raises for community college employees.
The request was intended to raise average faculty salaries to $56,693 – the projected average for community-college instructors not in New York or Hawaii, but in our neighboring states.6
But that was in January, before most of us understood how persistent inflation has become in our economy.
It could use a dramatic recalculation.
In their “short” session this year, legislators did grant community-college employees – as well as other state employees – an additional 1% raise, in addition to an already-budgeted 2.5% raise, for a total of 3.5%.
Legislators set aside an additional 1% in a reserve “to provide targeted salary increases to recruit and retain capable labor.”7
But a 3.5% raise does little to match the 8.6% inflation that prevailed in July when legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper adopted the budget – at the same time the state had a $6.5 billion budget surplus.8
DR. LISA CHAPMAN, President of Central Carolina Community College, the college at the epicenter of recent job announcements in Chatham County by electric-vehicle manufacturer VinFast and silicon chip-maker Wolfspeed, appreciates the raises.
But she also recognizes they don’t keep up.
“The General Assembly supported raises for our community-college employees – those raises we very much appreciate. But inflation has far outpaced the raises that just recently came,” Chapman says in the accompanying video.
“We’ve got phenomenal talent in the Community College System – people who do this job because they want to do it and they care and love it. They can work in industry and make more money – they’re here because they want to help the state,” Chapman says.
“But if we don’t reward them in a fashion that is at least trying to keep up with inflation, it’s going to be very difficult for us to continue providing all of the employees that these new companies need.”
J.B. Buxton, President of Durham Tech, has a similar view – he’s seen competition with industry for talent increase markedly in recent years.
“When we talk about additional resources we need for customized training with companies, what I really need are access to trainers for these projects,” Buxton said. “That means trainers who make enough to at least be competitive with industry.”
3 https://www.nccommunitycolleges.edu/analytics/dashboards/faculty-salary-comparison-ipeds, US 2-Year Overall tab.
4 https://www.bestnc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Facts-Figures-July-2022.pdf, p. 32.
7 https://webservices.ncleg.gov/ViewNewsFile/61/JointConferenceCommitteeReport_2022_06_28_final, p. 22/B4.