On paper, the annual report on faculty salaries being released today by the American Association of University Professors suggests a good year for professors' pay. The average increase across all categories was found to be 3.4 percent for 2008-9. While that's down from last year's average of 3.8 percent, last year's total was outpaced by inflation, while this year's gains came amid virtually no inflation (at least according to official statistics).
If you are a faculty member reading this and not feeling particularly flush, however, there's good reason, as the AAUP report is quick to point out. The data were collected prior to the announcements of many colleges of how they were dealing with the economic turmoil over over the last six months. So the many faculty members who were furloughed this year or the smaller number who experienced salary cuts had original salaries reported for the study. And while furloughs do not technically change salary level, they are de facto pay cuts (especially if, as is frequently the case, professors don't feel they can actually take the time off), and many furloughs are long enough and raises this year were small enough that they will have effectively canceled each other out.
Further, with many colleges announcing pay freezes for 2009-10, and many a faculty member's retirement account suddenly much smaller than it was a year ago, there are all kinds of reasons that any raise received for 2008-9 isn't feeling like it would have in past years (or leading to a standard of living increase). The figures also apply only to full-time faculty members, so the huge part-time teaching force in higher education (which is generally on the low end of the salary scale and this year is experiencing many layoffs) is not reflected.
The AAUP's report on salaries warns that colleges face serious dangers if colleges try to maneuver out of current economic difficulties -- however real -- by sacrificing professors' salaries and using poorly paid part timers to teach a larger share of courses.
"Like the larger economy, we are on the brink, and it will be critically important for faculty members to participate fully in the difficult budget decisions to come," the report says. "They must insist on full access to information, and take a critical look at claims about the need for immediate actions that will result in further demands on already strained human resources. Decisions about salaries, reductions in faculty positions and academic programs, and changes in the employment conditions of contingent faculty will affect the quality of the education we can offer for years to come, and we must ensure that the choices we make are good ones."
Even with the various caveats attached this year's figures, the overall data and the campus-by-campus statistics (available today on the AAUP's Web site ) show a further extension of trends in which the salary gaps within the professoriate grow. This year, salary levels for full professors saw larger raises (an average of 3.8 percent) than did associate and assistant professors (both 3.6 percent) than did instructors (3.3 percent).
(It may seem odd that those figures add up to a situation in which the national average increase is 3.4 percent, especially since the AAUP survey counts far more professors than instructors, and this has led some experts to question  the AAUP for not using weighting in its calculations, but the association has stuck with its approach. It should be noted that the questions only concern the national averages across institutions, and not the data for individual ranks or institutions.)
More evidence of the have/have-not reality of higher education is found in the totals for institutions. At 13 institutions (and these aren't institutions announcing furloughs, although many have frozen salaries for next year), the average for a full professor's salary is more than $160,000 and the top average is approaching $200,000. Meanwhile, there are 12 institutions where the average salary for a full professor doesn't top $50,000, and 19 (including 6 of the previous 12) where the average salary for an assistant professor doesn't top $40,000.
Generally, private, non-church-related institutions saw the largest increases this year, with an average salary increase of 4.0 percent across institution types and faculty ranks. That compares to 3.1 percent for publics and 3.9 percent for church-related institutions. The gap is particularly notable at doctoral institutions, where the independent private universities saw an increase of 4.6 percent, compared to 2.8 percent for publics and 4.0 for church related institutions -- across sectors and ranks.
Here are the salary averages for institutions in various categories, broken down by faculty rank.
Average Salary for Full-Time Faculty Members, by Category, Affiliation and Rank, 2008-9
The AAUP study may be best known for its averages by institutions, which allow faculty members and administrators to compare averages to peer institutions or the institutions they want to emulate. There are numerous issues related to such comparisons that aren't reflected in the data, such as the wide variation in cost of living within the United States. But such issues have never detracted from the popularity of comparing institutional averages.
The top salaries this year, as in all recent years, are at private research universities, with Harvard University leading at $192,600. There is a good chance, however, that Harvard may actually be second. Rockefeller University, which last year had an average of $191,200 -- more than $6,000 above Harvard's average last year -- did not participate in the survey this year.
Top 10 Universities in Salaries for Full-Time Full Professors
|1. Harvard University||$192,600|
|2. Stanford University||$181,900|
|3. Princeton University||$180,300|
|4. University of Chicago||$179,500|
|5. Columbia University||$175,200|
|6. Yale University||$174,700|
|7. California Institute of Technology||$172,500|
|8. New York University||$170,700|
|9. University of Pennsylvania||$169,400|
|10. Yeshiva University||$168,300|
The highest average salary at a public university the year -- University of California at Los Angeles -- is $48,100 less than the figure for Harvard. This year's top 10 list for public universities is considerably different from last year's, but doesn't necessarily mean that there was significant movement. The University of California System, which is well represented on this year's list (and has been historically) did not participate last year.
Top 10 Public Universities in Salaries for Full-Time Full Professors
|1. University of California at Los Angeles||$144,500|
|2. University of California at Berkeley||$143,500|
|3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||$142,700|
|4. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor||$142,100|
|5. (tie) University of Maryland at Baltimore||$141,200|
|5. (tie) New Jersey Institute of Technology||$141,200|
|7. Georgia Institute of Technology||$139,800|
|8. Rutgers University at Newark||$139,000|
|9. Rutgers University at New Brunswick||$137,500|
|10. Rutgers University at Camden||$136,000|
The top spot among liberal arts colleges illustrates that even institutions that have made faculty pay a priority are in retrenchment mode this year. Wellesley College leads in this category (as it did last year), but just last week announced the latest budget cuts  in response to a decline in endowment value. Shifts at the college will include a salary freeze for faculty members and 44 layoffs of non-faculty positions.
Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in Salaries for Full-Time Full Professors
|1. Wellesley College||$145,500|
|2. Barnard College||$135,700|
|3. Pomona College||$135,300|
|4. Amherst College||$135,200|
|5. Williams College||$132,700|
|6. Claremont McKenna College||$131,100|
|7. Harvey Mudd College||$130,800|
|8. Wesleyan University||$130,300|
|9. (tie) Smith College||$129,600|
|9. (tie) Swarthmore College||$129,600|
Many community colleges do not participate in the AAUP survey, but among those that do, the City University of New York and other institutions in the New York area top the list from year to year. Westchester Community College keeps its top rank, but three CUNY community colleges join it in having average salaries for full professors that exceed $100,000.
Community Colleges Where Average Salary for Full Professors Is More Than $90,000
|Community College||Average Salary|
|1. Westchester Community College||$109,000|
|2. Hostos Community College||$105,900|
|3. Queensborough Community College||$103,800|
|4. LaGuardia Community College||$101,500|
|5. Borough of Manhattan Community College||$99,100|
|6. Kingsborough Community College||$97,900|
|7. Miami University Hamilton||$97,300|
|8.(tie) Bronx Community College||$96,700|
|8. (tie) Union County College||$96,700|
For assistant professor average salaries, CalTech continues to lead at $105,500. Last year, CalTech was the only college in the survey where the average salary for assistant professors was in six figures. This year there are two more: Harvard ($101,400) and Stanford (100,800).
California institutions hold the top two spots on associate professor average as well.
Top 10 Institutions in Salaries for Associate Professors
|1. Stanford University||$128,000|
|2. California Institute of Technology||$126,200|
|3. Princeton University||$114,300|
|4. University of Pennsylvania||$114,100|
|5. Babson College||$113,300|
|6. Thomas M. Cooley Law School||$112,400|
|7. Harvard University||$112,300|
|8. Columbia University||$112,200|
|9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology||$110,300|
|10. Cornell University (endowed units)||$109,800|
The AAUP study also draws attention to the low salaries paid to some full-time professors. Many of the institutions on the lists that follow are in rural areas and/or at religious institutions.
Colleges Where Average Salary of Full-Time Assistant Professor Is $40,000 or Less
|1. Tabor College||$32,100|
|2. University of the Southwest (New Mexico)||$34,500|
|3. Bethany College (Kansas)||$35,600|
|4. Northland College||$36,400|
|5. Warner Pacific University||$37,000|
|6. Kentucky Christian University||$37,200|
|7. Alderson-Broaddus College||$37,500|
|8. Iowa Lakes Community College||$37,800|
|9. Union College (Kentucky)||$39,000|
|10. Taylor University at Fort Wayne||$39,200|
|11. Bethany College (West Virginia)||$39,300|
|12. (tie) Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||$39,500|
|12 (tie) Central Methodist University||$39,500|
|14. Tiffin University||$39,600|
|15. (tie) University of New Mexico at Valencia||$39,700|
|15. (tie) Marshall Community and Technical College||$39,700|
|15. (tie) Ohio Valley University||$39,700|
|18. (tie) Missouri Baptist University||$40,000|
|18 (tie) Pikeville College||$40,000|
College Where Average Salary for Full-Time Full Professors Is $50,000 or Less
|1. Tabor College||$40,800|
|2. Union College (Kentucky)||$42,100|
|3. Tennessee Wesleyan College||$43,400|
|4. Walla Walla University||$44,900|
|5. University of the Southwest (New Mexico)||$45,900|
|6. Kentucky Christian University||$46,200|
|7. Alderson-Broaddus College||$46,700|
|8. Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary (Iowa)||$48,000|
|9. Mineral Area Community College||$49,500|
|10. St. Andrew's Presbyterian College||$49,600|
|11. Ohio Valley University||$49,700|
|12. New Mexico State University at Alamogordo||$49,900|
John Curtis, AAUP’s director of research and public policy, said that it was unprecedented for the AAUP survey to involve so many states and institutions where budgets have changed significantly since data were submitted. He said that the AAUP was considering steps it can take -- such as an updated survey or new data for this year in next year's survey -- so that long term patterns are accurately reflected after all of the cuts are made.
He stressed that the data released today - while not final -- represent a best case scenario for faculty salaries this year, with the reality being that many are not experiencing real raises of the magnitude reported in the survey. Looking at the furloughs and various cuts being announced, he said, "it does strike me that the whole question of implementing furloughs and recisions is symbolic of the commitment to higher education, of not viewing it as as an investment as we should."