Faculty Pay Remains Flat at Public Colleges, Edges Up at Private Colleges

March 07, 2011

Amid a still-recovering economy and tight state finances, faculty members at public colleges saw no increase in pay this year, on average, for the second year in a row, a survey has found. Private-college faculty members did slightly better, receiving an average raise of 2 percent, which kept their pay on pace with inflation.

Those results come from an annual survey released this week by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The association reported on salary levels at 812 four-year public and private institutions in the 2010-11 academic year.

At public colleges, only assistant professors who started their jobs in 2010-11 received higher pay than did such faculty members in the previous year, according to the survey results. Those professors received an average of 1.4 percent more this year than the same group did last year. Pay for other faculty ranks was flat.

In contrast, faculty members across all academic ranks at private institutions received increases of at least 1 percent.

None of those figures, at public or private colleges, reflect pay furloughs that some institutions put into effect because of the recession.

Over the past decade, faculty salaries have grown just slightly above the rate of inflation. For the 2010 calendar year, the Consumer Price Index rose 1.6 percent compared with 2009.

Among all faculty at both public and private colleges, the median increase in salary was 1.1 percent, somewhat less than the 1.4 percent for senior administrators reported by the association in February in the results of a separate survey. Those administrators experienced a pattern similar to that of faculty members in their average pay, with no increases at public institutions and 2 percent raises at private institutions.

Squeeze on State Budgets

Many state governments are cutting spending to cope with large budget deficits, so the flat line for pay at public institutions "is not a surprise," said Andy Brantley, president and chief executive of the professional association, known as CUPA-HR.

Faculty pay at public colleges faces other threats this year, as newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and elsewhere are proposing to roll back bargaining rights for unionized faculty members, among other state employees. Of the 315 public institutions included in the survey results, about one-third reported that their faculties were unionized.

"As higher-education institutions struggle to balance budgets, we hope that institution leaders will look for new and different ways to acknowledge the work of outstanding faculty," Mr. Brantley said. For example, he said, administrators could give nonmonetary performance awards and "go out of your way to provide recognition to faculty, publicly and privately."

Adrienne E. Eaton, president of the Rutgers Council of AAUP-AFT Chapters, said the flat line for public institutions "tells me that we're going to start falling further behind the private sector, so that's worrisome for retaining quality faculty."

The faculty job market is loosening up after two years during which recessionary pressures led to hiring freezes at many institutions, said Ms. Eaton, a professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University. "People will head to places that can pay," she said.

At Rutgers, the union and the university are headed to arbitration over the institution's decision last year to freeze salaries and cancel scheduled pay raises. The union rejected the administration's explanation that state budget cuts had made those moves necessary.

Nationwide, the three disciplines with the highest average salaries in 2010-11, according to the CUPA-HR report, were business, engineering, and legal studies. That status held across all types of institutions and ranks.

The association's report also listed the disciplines with the lowest average salaries for assistant professors who started their jobs in 2010-11. At private colleges, they were library science, with an average salary of $49,272; theology and religious vocations, with an average salary of $50,620; and liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities, with an average salary of $50,854. At public colleges, they were visual and performing arts, with an average salary of $49,879; history, with an average salary of $51,712; and English language and literature, with an average salary of $51,944.

The American Association of University Professors publishes a separate annual report about faculty pay at individual institutions, with this year's version expected in April. Those data are not reported by discipline, however.