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Smallest Raise for Faculty in 50 Years

April 11, 2010
April 11, 2010
Repost from NY Times online

Study Finds a 1.2 Percent Increase in Faculty Pay, the Smallest in 50 Years

By TAMAR LEWIN

Academic pay has been squeezed by the recession, according to the annual salary survey by the American Association of University Professors.

Over all, salaries for this academic year are 1.2 percent higher than last year, the smallest increase recorded in the survey’s 50 years — and well below the 2.7 percent inflation rate from December 2008 to December 2009.

The survey found that average salary levels actually decreased this academic year at a third of colleges and universities, compared with 9 percent that reported lower average salaries in the previous two surveys. Private and church-related universities reported shrinking average salaries more often than public institutions.

And the academic pay situation may be even worse than the survey indicates, according to John Curtis, the association’s director of research and policy.

“A lot of faculty are losing ground, and the data probably underestimate the seriousness of the problems with faculty salary this year, because we’re only looking at full-time faculty and, as we’ve seen for several years, there’s an increasing number of part-time faculty, who are not included,” Mr. Curtis said. “Also, the survey doesn’t capture the effect of the unpaid furloughs a lot of faculty were forced to take this year, because the numbers we have are the base salaries agreed on at the beginning of the year, not the actual payroll results.”

Over all, the average salary for a full professor was $109,843, compared with $76,566 for an associate professor, $64,433 for an assistant professor, $47,592 for an instructor and $53,112 for a lecturer. At every type of institution in almost every class of faculty, men were paid substantially more, on average, than women.

Generally, administrative salaries at colleges and universities have been increasing far more quickly than pay for faculty members.

Given the widespread distress about high college costs, shrinking state support for public universities and plummeting endowment values at private universities — and the fact that college tuitions have been rising far more quickly than inflation — some experts said this year’s small faculty salary gains were not unexpected.

“It’s a necessary thing,” said Jane Wellman, executive director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability. “It reflects the real level of fiscal stringency in higher education and probably understates the magnitude of resource reductions for faculty, since one of the ways institutions have been saving money, where possible, has been to replace full-time tenured faculty, who are paid the most, with part-timers who earn much less.”

The survey found other evidence of universities scrimping in their support of faculty. About 14 percent of colleges and universities reduced their retirement contributions this year, and some ended them. In addition, some universities cut back on sabbaticals, travel budgets and research support.

Ms. Wellman pointed out that because the costs of benefits, especially health care, are rising so rapidly, total compensation is not slowing as much as salary growth. “Unless we get control over the growth in spending on benefits,” she said, “we’re going to continue to crowd out the resources necessary to get faculty in the classroom.”

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