LSU Memorial Tower campus

The Memorial Tower on LSU's campus.

ADVOCATE STAFF FILE PHOTO BY BILL FEIG.

In a turnaround from years of lean budgets, LSU faculty and staff will be getting pay hikes that average 3 percent, LSU President F. King Alexander announced Monday.

"Though this does not adequately reflect my and the Board of Supervisors' appreciation of your service to the university, I hope you will welcome this not only a a sign of our gratitude for your tireless efforts to support LSU and our students, but also as an indication of our intent to invest in you, the backbone of our university, more regularly than we have been able to over the last several years," Alexander said in a letter to the school's faculty and staff.

School officials could not say immediately what the raises will cost.

Each department will have a 3 percent merit pay raise pool.

Supervisors will make the final decisions, which means some faculty will get a 2.5 percent hike, for instance, while it will be 3.5 percent for others.

Those increases will be effective Sept. 1.

In addition, classified employees will get a 1 percent increase on Oct. 1, then a 2 percent adjustment on Jan. 1, 2018.

Also, Southern University System President and Chancellor Ray L. Belton announced late Monday afternoon that faculty and unclassified staff  are getting 4 percent raises, and that increases for classified employees, including merit, range from 2 percent to 6 percent.

Those increases were effective July 1.

The LSU president has long complained that LSU is losing key faculty members to other colleges and universities.

"Our students and citizens are not well served by a revolving door of faculty and staff at Louisiana's flagship university," he said.

"To retain our most important asset -- you -- LSU must become competitive with the other great American universities, which makes this small step forward imperative," according to the letter.

Alexander in December said about 500 faculty members have left in the past nine years, including 27 assistant professors in 2015.

LSU and other colleges and universities in Louisiana have suffered major budget problems for the past decade or so amid state budget problems.

However, higher education emerged from the 2017 regular legislative session with a standstill budget, which was considered a victory after years of reductions.

In addition, the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students -- TOPS -- was fully funded.

The TOPS assistance was a reversal from last year, when aid for the program was cut 60 percent for the 2017 spring semester.

TOPS pays for tuition, and in some other cases other costs, for students who meet academic requirements.

About three out of four LSU students are TOPS recipients.

Alexander has said he is concerned that last year's reduction will cause some students to flee LSU.

Preliminary enrollment figures are not available for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 21.

Belton, in a statement, said the pay raises at Southern are the first of their kind in nine years.

"This is not only an opportunity to retain faculty who are committed to the university, but it also begins the process of attracting new faculty and staff to sustain the university into the future," he said.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.