November 22, 1999

RALEIGH — As students and faculty debate whether UNC-Chapel Hill should raise its tuition, a new study concludes that the problems to which the extra tuition money would be applied — inadequate salaries and a “brain drain” of top professors — don’t exist.

“The Professors Are Not Underpaid,” a new Inquiry paper published this week by the Raleigh-based Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, uses new regional data on costs and quality of life to gauge the competitiveness of UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University in hiring and retaining faculty. The study also tests the proposition that Chapel Hill has been losing top professors by tracking inflows and outflows of prominent faculty members over time.

Authors George Leef and Jon Sanders conclude that both the competitiveness and brain drain arguments for faculty compensation hikes are flawed. “Based on both our cost-of-living analysis and what we believe is the still more valid quality-of -life analysis, we conclude that there is no need to ‘restore’ competitive salaries,” they write. “They already are competitive.”

Using a new index that accounts for regional variances in cost-of-living, taxes, quality-of-life, and other amenities, Leef and Sanders found that UNC-Chapel Hill ranked 24th out of 86 Research I universities, compared with a 58th ranking recently computed by university employees. Among the 59 public universities on the list, compensation at UNC-CH ranked sixth. N.C. State ranked 37th overall and 13th among public universities.

The authors evaluated evidence of a brain drain from UNC by using a national on-line database of faculty hires and moves. Chapel Hill has gained more prominent professors than it lost since 1995. “Looking at the actual history of faculty moves to and from UNC-CH,” they write, “there appears to be no evidence to support the idea that the university has suffered from a ‘brain drain.’”

The Pope Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute that issues Inquiry research papers and publishes the bimonthly journal Clarion and weekly newsletter Clarion Call on issues facing N.C. colleges and universities. It is a project of the Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation. Copies of the new 14-page Inquiry paper are available by calling 919-828-3876 or visiting