3/29 – Investing in our faculty and staff

March 29, 2022

Dear Trojan faculty and staff,

Greetings. It is wonderful to see everyone back not only from spring break but from nearly two years of COVID restrictions. As we look ahead, there will be many opportunities to take what we have learned and apply it in new and creative ways. It is also a moment of taking stock, and I write today to provide an overview of our plans for compensation over the next few years.

Our university truly pulled together – undertaking extensive and unprecedented health and safety measures, among the best in the nation. We all are deeply grateful to our staff, faculty, and students who were on the clinical frontlines caring for our communities. They administered more than one million COVID tests and vaccinated our students, employees, and patients, as well as 1.5 million people from all over Los Angeles. Together, we continued our outstanding clinical, academic, and research programs, increased our financial aid where possible, bolstered wellness and mental health programs, expanded community partnerships, and so much more.

The extra costs associated with managing all of this have been extensive, currently estimated at nearly $1.2 billion in extra costs and lost revenues in FY 2020, 2021, 2022, alone. Such a budget impact needed an unprecedented response. Yet, I am thankful to say that today, USC was successful in meeting these challenges.

We persevered because everyone worked hard and sacrificed – stepping up to ensure the work got done and the services were delivered, forgoing FY 21 salary increases, and not receiving a portion of USC’s contributions to retirement for a year. We delayed investing in some major capital projects, reduced hiring, and used virtually all unit-level discretionary funds to cover essential services and emergency needs. These savings, together with good budget management, federal relief funds, philanthropy, and other revenues, protected countless jobs, kept us going, and allowed us to continue planning for the future.

As a result, we now are able to enact our long-term plans for increasing faculty and staff compensation. We also are close to finalizing guidelines for more flexible hybrid and remote work options.

Our plan is to invest more than $700 million over the next five years to support performance-based salary increases, related employee benefits, and market adjustments. We have allocated $150 million to cover the first year of this plan. Our strategy is to bolster the excellence and innovation of our academic programs, strengthen our workforce, retain critical talent, ensure our job descriptions describe current roles and responsibilities, address compensation inequities, and systematically raise salaries to be competitive in one of the country’s most expensive job markets.

All employees will benefit from this plan. For hourly workers, whose work has been so essential to maintaining our operations and our safety, we will progressively boost entry-level wages so they exceed the minimum wage set here in Los Angeles. We will continue to raise the floor for all RTPC and tenure-track faculty salaries. Faculty and staff merit pools are being restored, and our minimum graduate student stipend rate will increase substantially, as well. The Resident Assistants were given a boost last year that will be retained.

Careful planning across all schools and units has gone into this initiative. This is a top priority for all of us. Funding will come from continued growth in the university’s educational, research, clinical health care, and commercial enterprises. In addition to revenue growth, the university will need to continue reducing operating costs and increasing efficiencies across the institution.

While I am focusing on faculty and staff compensation today, I want you to know that we also remain committed to increasing affordability and accessibility and will continue to steadily increase our financial aid pool for both graduate and undergraduate students.

The process for determining individual salaries has already begun in the schools and major divisional administrative units. Adjustments will start in the upcoming fiscal year, and continue over the next five years, as we build the resources to expand financial support for the entire USC workforce.

Thank you and Fight On!

Carol L. Folt