Raises for Public-College Faculty Edge Past Those at Private Colleges

March 17, 2014

For the first time in at least six years, the median base salary of professors at public colleges increased at a greater rate than that of their private-college counterparts, according to an annual report released this week by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

The median increase for tenured and tenure-track faculty members at public institutions in the 2014 fiscal year was 2.2 percent, compared with 2.0 percent at private colleges. Over all, the median base salary for tenured and tenure-track professors in 2014 rose 2.1 percent from the year before, the same increase as a year ago.

This year’s increase was better than the inflation rate, which measured 1.5 percent in 2013. But the rise in faculty salaries was below the average 2.5-percent increase that the association recently reported for administrators.

After several years of stagnant or barely rising wages at public institutions, the trend is encouraging, said Andy Brantley, the association’s president and chief executive officer.

"As state economies continue to improve, it is most definitely time for state legislatures to allocate adequate salary-increase funds to acknowledge the great work of faculty and staff," Mr. Brantley wrote in an email to The Chronicle. "High-performing faculty and staff are also becoming more mobile as the economy improves," he wrote, so that retaining "key talent" depends to a significant extent on competitive salaries.

Some institutions, however, both public and private, reported no salary increases this year, he noted.

Disciplinary Disparities

The disciplines with the highest average salaries for tenured and tenure-track professors haven’t changed from previous years and are the same at private and public institutions across all ranks. The top three, in order, are legal professions and studies; business, management, marketing, and related support services; and engineering.

The average salary, across all ranks, for professors in legal professions and studies at public colleges is $112,088; at private institutions, the average salary for faculty members in the same field is $123,541.

The lowest-paid disciplines differed between private and public institutions, as they typically have in the past. The disciplines with the lowest average salaries at public colleges are history, English language and literature, and visual and performing arts. At private colleges, they are communications technologies and support services; theology and religious vocations; and parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies.

The report also includes data on instructors and researchers off the tenure track who work full time at four-year institutions. A large proportion of the salary data for non-tenure-track professors comes from teaching-faculty members.

The association does not report an average salary for all non-tenure-track appointments. Instead, the data show pay for non-tenure-track faculty as a percentage of what tenured and tenure-track professors receive.

Comparisons of the two groups show that teaching faculty who worked off the tenure track had a median average salary that was about 90 percent of that received by tenured and tenure-track professors for all disciplines combined, the association said.

By discipline, the earnings of the two groups of faculty most closely matched in multi- and interdisciplinary studies, where non-­tenure-track teaching-faculty members earned 96.5 percent of what tenured and tenure-track professors did. The sharpest disparity in median average salary was in legal professions and studies, with non-tenure-track teaching faculty earning only three-fourths of what professors who were tenured or on the tenure track were paid.

The highest-paid disciplines among faculty members who work off the tenure track are largely identical to those for tenured and tenure-track professors For teaching faculty at both private and public institutions, the lowest-paid disciplines are foreign languages; English language and literature; and philosophy and religious studies. Research faculty who work off the tenure track have the lowest average salaries in the fields of family and consumer sciences, visual and performing arts, and history.

The association’s report reflects the salaries of 178,717 tenured and tenure-track faculty members and about 55,000 full-time, non-­tenure-track faculty members at 792 four-year colleges.