The Worst Salary Year

The average salary of a full-time faculty member in 2009-10 is only 1.2 percent higher than it was a year ago, the lowest year-to-year change in the 50 years that salary data have been collected by the American Association of University Professors. The association released its annual survey of faculty salaries today.

April 12, 2010

The average salary of a full-time faculty member in 2009-10 is only 1.2 percent higher than it was a year ago, the lowest year-to-year change in the 50 years that salary data have been collected by the American Association of University Professors. The association released its annual survey of faculty salaries today.

When factoring in a 2.7 percent inflation rate, the average full-time professor lost spending power this year. The average salary change for continuing faculty members was a gain of 1.8 percent, which also lagged the inflation rate -- marking the first time since the high-inflation 1970s that continuing faculty members have not seen a real increase in spending from one year to the next.

While salary increases were minimal across sectors, they were particularly low at private baccalaureate institutions -- increasing by only 0.6 percent.

About one third of the institutions in the AAUP survey reported that overall average salary levels decreased this year. And about two-thirds of continuing faculty members work at institutions where the average salary change lags the inflation rates.

The figures are likely to be depressing if not surprising to most faculty members, who have seen widespread salary freezes, and, in some cases, cuts. But the figures -- as the AAUP report on the survey notes -- actually understate the impact of the last year’s budget cuts on faculty pay.

Many colleges and universities adopted furloughs during the year. Furloughs do not in a legal sense change a faculty member’s salary -- even if her take-home pay is cut by the furlough -- so such changes are not generally reflected in the new data.

Further, the association’s data cover only full-time faculty members. While there are no national data, many anecdotal reports suggest that part-time faculty members weren’t seeing many salary gains this year, and were in fact experiencing many lost sections, with corresponding lost income. None of that adjunct economic dislocation is reflected in the survey.

Many faculty members use the annual report to compare their institutions' average salaries to those of other colleges. In some cases, institutions that adopted salary freezes may show slight gains or losses for salary levels of various faculty groups. That is for a variety of reasons.

First, not all freezes were uniform or uniformly enforced. But even where they were, they would not necessarily show up as a 0 percent change in the AAUP data. That’s because the association gathers average figures for salaries for all the members of faculty ranks who are actually at a college. So at an institution where many faculty members took early retirement or left for any reason, there may be an increase or decrease in the average actual salary even if everyone who was there this year and last did not receive a raise.

This year, even the wealthiest institutions in the United States -- generally private research universities -- aren’t showing real salary increases. But the data show the continuation of wide gaps among the professoriate (even excluding the adjuncts at the low end of academe’s pay scale). At the universities paying the highest salaries for full professors, the figures are approaching $200,000. But the average full professor at a community college earns less than $75,000. And there are many colleges -- generally small private institutions -- where full professors aren’t earning $60,000 and assistant professors are below $50,000.

Here is a table with the averages for various sectors and ranks.

Average Faculty Salaries by Rank and Sector, 2009-10

Rank All
Public Private, Independent Church-Related
Doctoral Universities      
Professor $125,300 $116,750 $153,332 $132,314
Associate $83,511 $80,463 $96,472 $88,859
Assistant $71,485 $68,718 $83,573 $75,538
Instructor $48,138 $45,805 $57,832 $61,612
Lecturer $54,583 $52,529 $61,860 $54,884
No Rank $63,958 $56,254 $73,100 $68,201
All Combined $91,060 $85,704 $111,949 $95,402
Master's universities      
Professor $91,508 $89,648 $99,963 $89,365
Associate $71,857 $71,075 $75,538 $69,984
Assistant $60,381 $59,959 $63,003 $58,710
Instructor $48,572 $48,342 $50,848 $47,409
Lecturer $50,408 $49,796 $55,272 $50,610
No Rank $54,400 $52,041 $63,644 $53,945
All Combined $70,807 $69,555 $76,454 $69,411
Baccalaureate colleges    
Professor $87,013 $84,537 $98,098 $74,413
Associate $67,077 $68,359 $72,141 $60,738
Assistant $55,495 $57,001 $58,762 $51,034
Instructor $45,211 $44,476 $48,766 $43,550
Lecturer $51,819 $50,628 $58,167 $41,781
No Rank $56,655 $44,218 $62,024 $43,379
All Combined $67,232 $64,804 $75,105 $60,081
Community colleges    
Professor $73,961 $74,103 n/a n/a
Associate $60,571 $60,592 n/a n/a
Assistant $53,695 $53,757 n/a n/a
Instructor $45,909 $45,979 n/a n/a
Lecturer $52,681 $52,681 n/a n/a
No Rank $42,128 $42,369 n/a n/a
All Combined $59,400 $59,467 n/a n/a

The AAUP’S report on the data notes the many reasons that colleges are feeling financially strapped this year -- declining state appropriations, shrunken endowments, diminished private giving and so forth.

The report offers no magic bullets, but urges professors to increase their knowledge of higher education finance so that they can better influence decision making. “Only if we understand the unique revenue streams of our individual colleges and universities can we successfully apply our efforts to both increasing the size of the revenue pie and allocating that pie in ways that maintain the primacy of academic functions,” the report says.

Still, the report notes that faculty members must be seen as central enough to colleges that they should be a priority for available funds. “[F]aculty members are on the front lines, interacting with students in the classroom, in the laboratory, in the studies, on the stage and in the field,” the report says.

John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the AAUP, said in an interview that “we are trying to call out to our faculty audience here and say 'get involved' -- there are problems that could have long-term implications for people in the profession and for the profession if people do not go into the profession.” Curtis stressed that the economic problems facing higher education “didn’t all happen in the last year,” and that college administrators and faculty members need to better educate politicians and the public about the kind of support academe needs.

Institutional Averages

Analyzing the relative rank of colleges and universities in average salaries is tricky any year. These figures don't take into consideration such matters as cost of living, which varies widely from rural college towns to major urban areas. And this year, when many institutions froze salaries, movement may be based on such factors as how many faculty members at which income levels took early retirement incentives that were offered.

Even with those caveats, the fact remains that people love to see how colleges rank on salaries. The top universities for average salaries of full-time professors don't tend to change much from year to year -- and they are all private research universities.

While there was some movement within the top 10 this year, the 10 institutions are the same, as is first place Harvard University, although with a $1,400 decline in average salary. The largest gain in the top 10 was at Columbia University, where the average salary increased by more $13,000 -- pushing the institution from fifth place to second place on the list.

Top 10 Universities in Salaries for Full-Time Full Professors

University Average Salary
1. Harvard University $191,200
2. Columbia University $188,600
3. University of Chicago $184,100
4. Stanford University $181,400
5. Princeton University $181,000
6. Yale University $174,100
7. California Institute of Technology $171,900
8. New York University $171,700
9. Yeshiva University $170,700
10. University of Pennsylvania $170,100

The category of top public universities is an area where the furlough issue probably creates difficulties with the list. While furloughs diminish your pay, they don't technically diminish your salary level -- and the report is based on salary levels. The use of furloughs varied by state, institution and a range of other factors. Since one of the states with longer furloughs (California) is well represented on this list, it is important to note that most faculty members there didn't take home anything close to their salaries this year.

With all of those caveats, the institutions on the top 10 list remain the same as last year, although with some movement up and down on the list. This year's top institution is the New Jersey Institute of Technology, displacing the University of California at Los Angeles.

Top 10 Public Universities in Salaries for Full-Time Full Professors

University Average Salary
1. New Jersey Institute of Technology $151,500
2. University of California at Los Angeles $148,000
3. University of California at Berkeley $145,800
4. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor $144,000
5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $143,000
6. Rutgers University at Newark $142,900
7. University of Maryland at Baltimore $141,100
8. Rutgers University at New Brunswick $140,100
9. Georgia Institute of Technology $139,400
10. Rutgers University at Camden $137,400

In the liberal arts category, the story this year is similar to the recent past -- with the institutions paying the most being elite liberal arts colleges in the Northeast (many of them women's colleges) and in California. Wellesley leads the list this year, as it did last year. Bowdoin College joined the list this year, while Swarthmore College was edged out.

Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in Salaries for Full-Time Full Professors

College Average Salary
1. Wellesley College $142,900
2. Amherst College $135,300
3. Claremont McKenna College $135,100
4. Pomona College $134,700
5. Barnard College $134,100
6. Harvey Mudd College $130,700
7. Williams College $130,500
8. Wesleyan University $129,400
9. Smith College $128,400
10. Bowdoin College $127,800

Among community colleges, the top salaries in the AAUP survey are this year -- as they have been in the past -- from the City University of New York and from other colleges in the Northeast. One caution is that many community colleges don't participate in the survey, or do not use faculty ranks.

Community Colleges Where Average Salary for Full Professor Exceeds $95,000

Community College Average Salary
1. Westchester Community College $116,700
2. Queensborough Community College $110,200
3. Hostos Community College $108,700
4. LaGuardia Community College $106,400
5. Borough of Manhattan Community College $104,000
6. Kingsborough Community College $102,300
7. Bronx Community College $99,800
8. Miami University Hamilton $97,300

Research universities also dominate the list of the institutions providing the highest average salaries to associate professors.

Top 10 Institutions in Salaries for Associate Professors

University Average Salary
1. California Institute of Technology $126,000
2. Stanford University $124,400
3. Columbia University $117,000
4. (tie) Harvard University $116,900
4. (tie) Princeton University $116,900
4. (tie) Babson College $116,900
7. New Jersey Institute of Technology $112,300
8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $111,000
9. University of Pennsylvania $110,200
10. Cornell University (endowed units) $108,800

There are now six institutions -- all private research universities -- where the average salary for assistant professors is in six figures.

Institutions With 6-Figure Average Salaries for Full-Time Assistant Professors

University Average Salary
1. California Institute of Technology $105,800
2. Harvard University $104,400
3. University of Pennsylvania $102,300
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $100,600
5. Stanford University $100,500
6. University of Chicago $100,100

At the other end of the pay spectrum, at least 16 colleges in the survey have average salaries for assistant professors that are less than $40,000. Most are small private institutions.

10 Colleges With Lowest Average Salaries for Full-Time Assistant Professors

College Average Salary
1. University of the Southwest $33,600
2. Tabor College $34,800
3. Lees-McRae College $35,500
4. Lackawanna College $36,100
5. Crichton College $36,400
6. Kentucky Christian University $37,000
7. (tie) Union College (Kentucky) $38,100
7. (tie) Ohio Valley University $38,100
9. Glenville State College $38,600
10. Urbana University $38,900


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