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Buyouts Of Tenured Professors In Texas And Across Nation

University of Texas campus
Image by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

We're beginning to see the consequences of state budget cuts at Texas' public universities. The Chronicle of Higher Education's Katherine Mangan reports today how more than 130 tenured professors at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University have accepted buyouts.

While the early retirements are expected to save nearly $18 million annually, they also carry administrative consequences for their colleges, Mangan reports.

Six of the 76 faculty members in the University of Texas' English department accepted buyout offers. But because two of those professors had been scheduled to teach large sections of a required class, "Masterworks of Literature," in the spring, "we were suddenly looking at two classes with 200 to 250 seats each that couldn't run," said Elizabeth Cullingford, the department's chair.

This phenomenon is not unique to Texas. Public universities in cash strapped states across the nation are offering buyouts to professors. Bloomberg reports on buyout offers at public universities from Illinois to Nebraska to Texas.

With the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities in Washington forecasting U.S. states will face fiscal 2012 deficits totaling $140 billion, “these buyouts will become more common,” said Roger Meiners, who teaches economics at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Most states have horrific budget problems and they haven’t dealt with the kinds of cuts in higher education that are going to be necessary,” he said in a telephone interview. State support for colleges and universities fell 3.5 percent to $75.2 billion in fiscal 2010, following a similar drop in 2009, according to figures from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University in Normal.

Some colleges may be using the financial crisis as an excuse to dismiss tenured staff and reduce payroll costs, according to the American Association of Tenured Professors.

In too many cases administrations invoke such conditions as justifications for implementing, without sufficient or any meaningful faculty participation in the decision making, a variety of measures that threaten the working conditions of faculty, academic professionals, and graduate employees.

The AATP reports that full professors at public universities earn an average of $133,765 in total compensation, which is more than the combined income of two instructors.

Update at 10:50 am: Coincidentally, Kiplinger just sent us a news release naming three Texas  universities among their Top 100 Best Values in Public Colleges for 2011:

14. University of Texas at Austin
23. Texas A&M University
54. University of Texas at Dallas

Here's how Kiplinger ranjks colleges:

We start with data on more than 500 public institutions and sort the schools based on quality measures -- such as the admission rate, the test scores of incoming freshmen, and four- and six-year graduation rates. We then add cost data -- including tuition, fees, room and board, and financial aid for in-state and out-of-state students -- and re-rank the institutions. It is this combination of academic quality and affordability -- not any desire on our part to exclude a particular school -- that determines which schools make our lists for best value.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.