Faculty Salaries Not to Blame for Tuition Increases, Report Says
By Patricia Troumpoucis
Increases in average faculty salaries are at their lowest point in more than 30 years, according to an annual faculty salary survey by the American Association of University Professors. Faculty-salary increases are generally thought to be the driving force behind tuition increases, the report says, but that’s not the case now.
According to the report, “Don’t Blame Faculty for High Tuition,” the average salaries of full-time faculty members at all higher-education institutions increased by 2.1 percent. The study is based on a survey of 1,446 colleges and universities.
“Institutions of higher education — both public and private — often claim that rising faculty salaries are among the major causes of persistent increases in tuition. Increases in faculty salary, however, fell far below average rises in tuition and fees, calling this assertion into question,” the report says.
The report says tuition and fees at public two-year institutions rose by an average of 13.8 percent in 2003-2004, and they increased by 14.1 percent at four-year institutions and 6 percent at private four-year colleges and universities. At the same time, the report says, the average faculty salaries at most public two- and four-year institutions rose by less than 2 percent, while the average faculty salaries at private four-year institutions rose by about 3 percent.
Dr. Ronald G. Ehrenberg, the author of the report and director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, said this defeats the notion that tuition rises with faculty salaries.
“It’s not the case,” Ehrenberg said. “Over long periods of time, we find rates of increase in tuition as considerably higher than faculty salary.”
Other factors that have affected the rise in tuition costs include “the escalating costs of benefits for all employees, reductions in state support of public institutions, growing institutional financial-aid costs, expansion of the science and research infrastructure at research universities, and the increasing costs of information technology,” the report says.
Ehrenberg said it’s much more expensive to run colleges and universities today than it was years ago, pointing to the cost of student services, the growing costs of technology and construction costs.
John Curtis, research director at the AAUP, said the worry with faculty salaries then becomes a question of whether the world of higher education will be able to attract and retain quality educators.
“The real issue is whether we’ll be able to attract intellectually promising people into the academic profession,” Curtis said.
These statistics become more than just numbers when attached to the names and faces of hard-working faculty members, who are trying to make ends meet.
The struggle is abundantly clear listening to Ron Hayduk, assistant professor of political science at the City University of New York’s Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Hayduk, who has been teaching at BMCC for four years, said although his salary has increased about 10 percent over the past four years, it’s still not enough to cover the cost of living in New York City. Hayduk, who is married and plans on starting a family, said he worries how he and his wife are going to financially manage when they have a baby.
“We’re worried and we’re wondering, is this the sort of reward we get for the hard years of work for a Ph.D.?” Hayduk said.
But above his own financial struggle, Hayduk said students suffer the most — they’re stuck in the middle, between swelling enrollments and increases in faculty workloads.
The AAUP’s Curtis said more funds need to be committed to higher education, and that such a move needs to be viewed as a benefit to the entire nation.
“It really requires a fundamental commitment of public resources to higher education,” Curtis said. “It’s not just about the individuals attending colleges or about the faculty, but they provide a benefit to society and we should be investing more in higher education.”
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