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Report Finds Faculty Pay Up — Barely

Report Finds Faculty Pay Up — Barely
By Garry BoulardDespite record state budget deficits resulting from the recession of 2001 and 2002, faculty members at the nation’s two- and four-year public colleges and universities enjoyed a marginal 2.5 percent increase in their salaries in 2003, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

“Looking at the table on changes in average salaries for the past two years tells us one thing,” said Susan G. Broyles, program director with the postsecondary institutional studies program at NCES, “and that is that those salaries are just barely keeping up with inflation. Across the board, the increases are consistent in every category, anywhere from 1.6 to 3.5 percent, but averaging out at 2.5 percent.”

According to the study “Staff in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2002, and Salaries of Full-Time Instructional Faculty, 2002-03,” faculties at public, private nonprofit and private for-profit colleges all experienced small increases in their salaries. Meanwhile, the average salary paid to a full-time professor at either a public or private nonprofit school continued to outstrip the salary paid to a full-time professor at private for-profit schools by at least $20,000.

In the 2002-2003 academic year, the report says, the average salary for a public college or university professor on a nine- to 10-month contract was $60,014, second only to the $64,634 paid to private nonprofit schools. In a distant third place was the average salary made by full-time professors at private for-profit colleges and universities — $39,629.

Nevertheless, it was at those private for-profit schools where full-time professors also saw their greatest salary increases. In 2001-2002, private for-profit colleges and universities paid such professors $33,891. But in 2002-2003, that average jumped to $39,629 — a healthy 16 percent increase.

“All of the private for-profit schools are trying to increase their salary levels for their professors because we want to compete for a quality faculty just like everybody else,” said Terry Bishop, a spokesperson for the University of Phoenix, whose faculty pool exceeds 17,000, the vast majority of whom are part-time.

“I think it is hard to really compare the private for-profits with the other kinds of schools because so much of our faculty is part-time,” Bishop said.

In two other categories, however, the private for-profits saw salary increases of more than 28 percent for associate professorships on a nine- to 10-month contract, with assistant professorships on the same contract basis enjoying an 8.5 percent jump.

By contrast, both the pubic and private nonprofits increased salaries in both categories by no more than 3.4 percent.

The NCES study tracks a separate survey released last year by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which also reported small salary gains for professors, instructors and lecturers at both public and private nonprofit schools.

“Yes, I suppose the good news is that faculty salaries do tend to increase overall from year to year,” said Dr. John W. Curtis, the director of research at AAUP. “But for the last few years those gains have really been so close to the rate of inflation, or just above it, that in real terms there may not be any substantial gain at all.”

“And in fact,” Curtis said, “we found a number of institutions last year where, for at least some of the faculty, the salaries actually decreased.”

The NCES study also reveals a significant gap in the salaries earned by men and women, a gap reflected in other studies.

According to the NCES report, male faculty with nine- to 10-month contracts earned an average salary of $66,000, compared to the average salary of $54,000 paid to female faculty members working under the same contract period. The gap for professors with 11- to 12-month contracts was even greater, with male faculty members earning on average $86,000, compared to their female counterparts, who earned $75,000.

The AAUP report, released last April, reported that on average the nation’s faculty salaries increased only 0.2 percent above the rate of inflation in 2003-2004, with salaries for “continuing faculty” receiving increases of just 1.2 percent above inflation — the lowest real increase since 1997.

“Schools in every category are facing great financial challenges,” said Curtis, noting that the negative effect of the downturn in the stock market in 2001 and 2002 on endowments for private schools was in many ways just as bad as what the public schools experienced due to state budget deficits.
“The challenges are different depending upon the situation,” Curtis said. “But the bottom line is the same — most of these institutions have really gone through some tough times, and it remains to be seen if the picture will be any brighter for this year.”

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