I teach in the UL System, and as I print out my W-2's for the year, I am having trouble reconciling a few things. First, college faculty in the UL System have not had so much as a meager cost of living raise in nearly a decade. We are professionals with the highest level of education and mountains of student debt to show for it. Yet on average we make significantly lower wages than our colleagues in almost every other state, and we are victims of a loyalty tax. Every year, we make less and less, as the consumer price index rises while our wages remain stagnant. What other professional class of workers would stomach a decade without a single pay raise? I am not even bringing up merit raises--you know, the kind where you have your annual evaluation and receive a pay raise for doing exemplary work. Merit raises at Louisiana campuses have been rarer than a President Obama supporter at a Tea Party rally. I am talking about basic cost of living raises that just keep us making the same salary when adjusted for inflation. I repeat, we have not even had a cost of living raise in nearly a decade.
Second, how is it fair that because, all things being equal, I will receive a very modest pension when I retire, I cannot receive my full Social Security benefit--even though I have paid into the system for over 20 years before becoming a college professor and may continue to pay into social security through part-time jobs? If I worked in the private sector and made a much larger salary and received a much more generous pension, I could still draw my full social security benefit. Again, how is this fair? Years ago, the legislature enacted a law to prevent me from receiving my full social security benefit, lest I receive a government windfall. Seriously, a windfall? The way I see it, the government just decided to confiscate my social security contributions and rob me of the benefit that I deserve.
Third, because I need to supplement my sub-par salary that is over 20% below the regional average for my position, I do some adjunct work to help pay the bills. On this supplemental income, the state still deducts 8% out of my paycheck for my retirement; however, the income I make from my adjunct work does not count toward my salary total when my pension is calculated. So, the state deducts the money from my paycheck but does not pay me the benefit for which the deduction is made? How is this fair? Please, Governor Edwards and Louisiana legislators, will you do something to help out the hundreds of dedicated Louisiana faculty who are in the same boat with me? Many Louisiana faculty are at the breaking point and looking to you for some positive changes that we desperately need.
Michael S. Jeffress, PhD