Two weeks after the publication of an attack on professors for not working enough to justify our salaries, the AAUP Faculty Salary Survey proves that there is no such thing as “a faculty salary.” Predictably, full professors at elite universities earn close to $200,000. (As they should. Compared to the salaries of the most successful lawyers, doctors, and businessmen, this salary seems almost modest.) Professors at R1 state universities usually make over $100,000, faculty at state colleges top out around $80,000 and there are many institutions where faculty earn under $70,000. However, these are the average salaries for full professors, a rank that takes years to achieve and that many never reach. What are salaries for assistant professors? The average salary for an assistant professor ranges from $40,000 to $100,000. Imagine trying to pay back over ten years of student loans while earning $40,000.
Perhaps a less obvious inequity than that of faculty salaries are the differences in faculty to student ratios. At Princeton the ratio is 6:1; at many private liberal arts colleges the ratio is less than 10:1; at my public, teaching-focused institution it is 27:1. While this has severe consequences for faculty workload (a point that is brilliantly elucidated by a professor at the Wisconsin Colleges), it also points out a severe lack of resources for students who most need them. Fewer faculty teaching more students mean less attention to each student paper, less time for mentoring, less independent studies, less time spent on letters of recommendation, etc. Many of my students are brilliant, but because of a variety of circumstances – their parents didn’t go to college, they are working 60 hours a week while attending school, they have small children already, they struggled in high school – they don’t know how smart they are. Encouraging them, mentoring them, and training them takes an incredible amount of time, energy, and patience. Arguably, this is more valuable work, a greater contribution to the collective good, than is polishing a student already aimed for success.
Next column: does the Faculty Salary Survey reveal gender inequity?