Pay Increases for Academic Professionals Outpace Inflation

March 31, 2014

The median base salary of professional staff members on college campuses rose by 2.1 percent this academic year, outpacing the 1.5-percent rate of inflation, according to an annual report being released this week by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

For the first time since 2009-10, median salaries for professionals at public institutions climbed at a pace equal to that at private institutions, according to the report, suggesting that the effects of the economic recovery are spreading to more institutions.

Across all institutions, the overall median base salary increase in 2013-14 was slightly larger than the year before, when professionals’ salaries rose by 2 percent.

The data reflect the salaries of employees at four-year and two-year colleges whose primary responsibilities require professional-level expertise and those who work in special functional areas like academic or student services, facility management, human resources, and athletics.

The median raise for these professionals across all institutions is weaker than the 2.5-percent increase in administrators’ salaries, and equal to the 2.1-percent increase for tenured and tenure-track faculty members, according to data the association reported in March.

Unequal Gains

The gap in professional pay raises between private and public institutions has narrowed in recent years, from two percentage points in 2010-11 to 0.4 percentage points last year.

But not all professionals at public institutions saw gains equal to those of their peers at private institutions in 2013-14. In fact, in eight of the 10 job categories for which data were available, median base salaries rose more at private institutions than at public ones. The most significant gap was reported among research professionals, whose median base salary rose by 2.4 percent at private institutions and 1.8 percent at public ones.

Only athletic-affairs professionals had greater salary gains at public institutions (where the median increase was 2.4 percent) than at private ones (2.1 percent).

Athletic coaches were among the highest-paid positions in the report. The median base salary for head football coaches was $99,967 across all institutions; at research institutions, head football coaches’ median pay was $316,598.

In basketball and ice hockey, an already large gap between coaches’ salaries for men’s and women’s teams grew from last year. Men’s ice-hockey coaches at research institutions made $132,365 more than their counterparts on women’s teams, a gap that grew by almost $20,000 from last year. The disparity in pay between coaches of men’s and women’s basketball teams was $82,817, up more than $7,000 from last year.

The highest-paid individual position across all institutions in the report is that of staff physicians, who earned a median base salary of $142,106. They are followed by staff lawyers, who had a median salary of $112,972, and veterinarians, who made $108,462.

The lowest-paid position included in the survey was the student-residence-hall manager, whose median salary was $31,147, including room and board. Among the other lowest-paying positions were student admissions counselor, client care specialist, and academic evaluator.

The association’s report reflects the salaries of 186,688 professionals in higher education at 1,138 private and public colleges nationwide. Of the colleges surveyed, 54 percent were private and 46 percent public.