Phi Beta Cons

The Counter-Offer Game

Professors know the game. The best way to get a raise at a university is to come up with an outside offer. If your university wants to keep you, it will match the offer with a raise. Some professors, I understand, have made an art out of this process.

At the University of North Carolina, the game is getting a little harder to play. The system-wide revolving fund for counter offers, which was once $10 million, has not been replenished by the legislature, and it’s down to between $35,000 and $58,000. University officials are upset because they fear losing faculty.

With funds so low, it’s not enough to claim you have an offer; you have to prove it. The Raleigh News & Observer noted that “campuses ask their professors for a written offer letter from the competing university. ’It’s insulting,’ said Randy Woodson, N.C. State chancellor.”

It’s insulting? When you are about to ask the taxpayers for a raise — not because you are doing a better job but because some other school is willing to pay more — it is wrong to require evidence that you have a bona fide offer? I don’t quite get it.

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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