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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “UA housing may boost retention, employees say”

    An employee housing program that would provide affordable homes to university faculty could be one way to increase retention rates among professors, a university administrator said.

    The Drachman Institute, which is an affiliate of the School of Architecture, is researching the possibilities of an Employer-Assisted Housing Program that would provide affordable housing units to junior-level faculty and classified staff, said Marilyn Robinson, associate director of the institute.

    The program stems from the idea that affordable off-campus housing is linked to retention rates, but additional research still needs to be done on how costly the project would be and how the housing units would be priced, Robinson said.

    “”Typically, if people are happy in their housing, and they have housing that’s convenient to their employment and meets their needs, they tend to stay put,”” Robinson said.

    While many of the proposal’s details still must be ironed out, faculty support for affordable housing subsidized by the UA is overwhelming, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Study.

    Of the more than 2,100 employees surveyed, about 70 percent said they were interested in learning more about the program and may consider signing up if it’s approved, said Kelly Smith, associate director of the center and a sociology lecturer.

    Juan Garcia, vice provost for academic affairs, said the UA’s faculty retention rates are not where they should be and an affordable housing program is worth looking into as one way to get the numbers up.

    “”We work really hard to bring great faculty here, and when they leave, we consider it a real loss,”” Garcia said. “”I think affordable housing is part of that factor, and if we provide it, then it has the possibility of increasing retention.””

    In 2005, 55 faculty members out of 105 retention cases, or about 52 percent, left the university to go elsewhere, Garcia said.

    These faculty members were, on average, five years younger and had six years less experience than the faculty at large, he said.

    There were about 2,500 instructional and other faculty at the UA in fall 2004, according to the 2004-2005 UA Fact Book.

    The brain drain is not an exclusive problem to the UA; the other state universities also lost faculty members in 2005.

    Northern Arizona University lost 53 faculty members that year and 31 faculty members also left their positions at Arizona State University, according to the Arizona Board of Regents’ Annual Personnel Report.

    The UA’s 2005 Faculty Retention and Loss Report also shows a seven-year average, in which the retention rates for full professors equals about 68 percent, associate professors 46 percent and assistant professors 42 percent – evidence that newer faculty members are more likely to leave the university.

    In the report, Garcia wrote that there needs to be an effort to accommodate junior faculty because it is easier for them to “”pick up and move on,”” and retaining junior faculty saves the university “”resources in the long run.””

    The Employer-Assisted Housing Program would be a major step in accommodating the needs of new faculty, Robinson said, and would only be available to people for as long as they are employed with the UA.

    “”The idea is that if they like it, they’ll want to stay with us,”” Robinson said.

    The program would provide new housing units on three separate university-owned plots of land to the north, south and west of campus that are outside of the UA’s planning boundaries, Robinson said.

    Though it’s unclear if the UA would sell the land or retain it, the plots would be under a land trust, which means the property wouldn’t be included in the home purchase price, Robinson said.

    “”The land is usually the considerable part of the expense in buying the home,”” Robinson said. “”All the employees would have to do is have a mortgage for the cost of the home.””

    The home itself could be minimized through additional subsidies, which would depend on the homebuyer’s income. If the homebuyer had low enough income to qualify for government subsidies, that could also reduce the cost of buying the house, Robinson said.

    The type of housing that will be offered is still unknown, Robinson said, and will largely depend on what the employees request or show interest for in the survey.

    Once the survey data is compiled, Smith said she will submit a report to Robinson, who will send a recommendation within the next month to the president’s cabinet.

    If the president’s cabinet chooses to move forward with the program, Garcia said they will submit a proposal to the board of regents for final approval, but the timeline of the project is still unclear.

    “”This plan is still in the very early stages,”” Garcia said. “”But it’s absolutely worth looking into and pursuing.””

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