Salaries Edge Up for Senior Administrators, but Not at Public Colleges

Private-college leaders see 2-percent raise in pay, while state cutbacks keep public officials' salaries flat

February 21, 2011

Senior administrators' salaries have begun to rebound from the economic downturn, according to an annual report released this week by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

The gain was driven by increases at private institutions, where leaders' median salary increased by 2 percent last year. Pay at public colleges stayed flat.

During the 2011 fiscal year, the median base salary of all college presidents, provosts, and other senior officers increased by 1.4 percent. That bump was nowhere near the roughly 4-percent annual increases they had enjoyed for much of the past decade, but it was an improvement over last year, when top officials saw no gain. Senior administrators' pay raises still lagged behind inflation, which was 1.6 percent, according to the Consumer Price Index.

"While it's only 2 percent, a 2-percent increase is definitely something for us to celebrate this year for private institutions after seeing that they had a median increase of 0 percent last year," Andy Brantley, president of the association, known as CUPA-HR, said in an interview.

Mr. Brantley said public institutions had to struggle to offer salary increases because their budgets were closely tied to troubled state economies, while private colleges had more flexibility to offer raises if their institutional revenues were improving.

Salaries flat-lined for deans and associate deans at public and private institutions, while pay increases across all other job categories ranged from 1.3 percent to 1.6 percent. External-affairs officers received the biggest pay increases by percentage.

The median salary of presidents at both public and private doctoral institutions was $385,000, up from $375,000 last year, while that at baccalaureate institutions rose from $225,200 to $241,488. Salaries for presidents at other types of institutions increased slightly.

College officials in the survey were slightly more optimistic than the previous year that they would be able to add new part-time and full-time positions. A greater percentage said they were willing to add positions in a variety of categories than in the previous year, although fewer than 1 percent of colleges continue to expect to add "significantly more" positions.

Mr. Brantley said the data reflect a slight "upward trend" for hiring prospects, but he expects next year to be challenging for colleges, particularly public ones, in terms of both hiring and providing salary increases.

"Many states are closely scrutinizing all of their expenditures, including their expenditures for higher education," he said. "Private institutions will hopefully fare as well next year as they did this year."

The report reflected the salaries of 78,118 people in 284 senior administrative positions at 1,256 institutions, roughly half of which are private. The survey can be ordered online at CUPA-HR's Web site.