CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees is asking the state for about $14 million to raise faculty and staff salaries in the 2015-2016 budget.
If approved by the Legislature, UW's request would equal about an average 4 percent pay raise. The raises would be effective in 2015 and would be based on merit and not across the board.
Before the unanimous board vote Friday, UW President Bob Sternberg told the trustees that UW employees haven't had a pay raise in four years — the longest time they have gone without a permanent raise in 30 years.
"An increase in compensation is really my top priority starting in as president," Sternberg, who took over as president earlier this month, said.
Compared to 50 public research universities across the country and region, including states in more economic distress than Wyoming, UW's salaries were 14 percent lower than the average in 2012, according to UW statistics.
The stagnant pay means UW has fallen behind universities in other states in salaries, resulting in UW losing an increasing number of faculty, Sternberg said.
"The data are that every year we're losing more people, it's almost a linear upward function and it's getting scary," he said.
In 2009, 10 faculty members that UW valued left after being recruited away or after seeking another job elsewhere, according to statistics provided by the university. In 2012, that number jumped to nearly 30.
"The main thing in any business, including the education business, is the question: can you recruit the people you want and can you retain them?" Sternberg said.
In addition the money for a salary increase, the UW budget request seeks $20 million in state money to help create a new faculty endowment fund that would be used to boost pay and research opportunities for its top faculty. The university would raise money to match the one-time state contribution.
Sternberg explained that even a merit-based pay increase isn't enough to keep top faculty from leaving elsewhere.
"We're not losing faculty to cruddy places, we're losing faculty to good and excellent places, suggesting that the ones we're losing are among the ones we really want to keep," he said.
UW's budget request also seeks money for various maintenance projects, improved wireless internet, infrastructure improvements and brucellosis vaccine research.