Slow Recovery

Faculty salaries lag inflation, new report from AAUP finds. Gains are larger at private than at public institutions.

April 9, 2012

An annual survey of faculty salaries being released today by the American Association of University Professors paints a dismal picture, suggesting that a historic low period for compensation increases continues. This trend may go on for a while, the report says, and it questions whether the numbers will ever go back to where they were before the Great Recession.

According to the survey, titled “A Very Slow Recovery,” average faculty salaries rose by 1.8 percent in 2011-12 at institutions that submitted data for this academic year and the last one. The increase, the survey points out, is less than the 3 percent rate of inflation in the same time period.

“When all of the salary data submitted in each year is adjusted to account for inflation, the overall average salary of a full-time faculty member in 2011-12 is less than 1 percent higher than it was five years ago, in 2006-2007,” says the report, which includes data from 1,250 colleges and universities.

As in previous years, the data show that salaries at private universities increased more than public institutions. Full professors at private doctoral, master's or baccalaureate universities received on average about one percentage point more in average salary increases than their counterparts at public universities. Average salaries for assistant professors at private doctoral universities went up by 4.1 percent, while assistant professors at public doctoral institutions saw a 2.2 percent increase.

“Over the course of a number of these annual reports, we’ve been making the case that the real issue is priorities. Full-time faculty salaries have been stagnant, and an increasing proportion of instruction is being shifted to part-time faculty members who are poorly paid, not provided with benefits, and not provided with the support they need to do the jobs they are capable of,” said John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the AAUP. “As a result, in the aggregate the proportion of total higher education spending that goes to instruction has been declining.”

He said the primary focus of institutions must be to fund the academic mission.  

The survey notes the attacks on collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and other states in the last year, and compares average faculty salaries by unionization status. Salaries at unionized public doctoral level universities were 2.6 percent lower than at similar non-unionized universities, while average salaries at master's-level public universities with unions were 15.6 percent higher than at non-unionized institutions.

The report acknowledges that data about compensation for adjuncts, who now make up 75 percent of faculty positions, are not part of the survey. These salaries are generally much lower to start with, and less likely to go up.

The AAUP also takes aim at a familiar argument that frustrates professors: the perception that high faculty salaries are to blame for tuition increases. "Published tuition and fees at public two-year colleges increased by 44.8 percent above the inflation rate during the last decade, while average fulltime faculty salaries at these institutions declined by 2.5 percent in real terms,” the report says. At public four-year institutions, published tuition and fees jumped 72 percent above the inflation rate while faculty salaries stayed about the same. “Private four-year colleges and universities increased their published tuition by 28.9 percent more than inflation, while faculty salary increases ranged from 1.9 to 7.7 percent,” according to the report.

Change in Inflation-Adjusted Published Tuition and Fee Prices and Full-Time Faculty Salaries

Percent Change
to 1991-92
to 2001-2
to 2011-12
Private Nonprofit Four-Year      
Tuition and Fees 60.4% 35.9% 28.9%
Faculty Salary: Doctoral Universities 30.6 11.4 7.7
Faculty Salary: Master's Universities 20.9 7.7 1.9
Faculty Salary: Baccalaureate Colleges 25.1 11.4 4.3
Public Four-Year      
Tuition and Fees 55.9 37.1 72.0
Faculty Salary: Doctoral Universities 19.0 9.6 0.7
Faculty Salary: Master's Universities 18.4 17.0 -5.3
Faculty Salary: Baccalaureate Colleges 14.4 4.6 0.6
Public Two-Year      
Tuition and Fees 81.5 5.4 44.8
Faculty Salary: Associate Colleges 17.9 -2.1 -2.5

College presidents also came in for criticism, with the report saying that apart from a few examples, “shared sacrifice has not been practiced by the presidents of our colleges and universities.” Inflation-adjusted median salaries for presidents continued to rise even as median faculty salaries decreased in all but one category.

Percentage Change in Inflation-Adjusted Median Salary from Prior Year

Category 2009-10 2010-11
Presidents 1.4 0.5
Doctoral Faculty -1.6 -1.2
Master's Faculty -1.1 0.1
Baccalaureate Faculty -2.9 -0.5
Community College Faculty -2.2 -1.2

The AAUP's report enables comparison of average salaries across sector and rank, and increases from the past year are negligible.

Average Salary for Full-Time Faculty, by Category, Affiliation, and Academic Rank, 2011-12

Category Public Private,
-- Professor $120,955 $162,561 $132,998
-- Associate Professor $82,777 $101,954 $90,606
-- Assistant Professor $71,465 $89,307 $76,877
--Instructor $47,207 $61,096 $63,284
-- Lecturer $54,369 $65,610 $56,584
-- Professor $88,940 $103,094 $92,047
-- Associate Professor $71,025 $77,359 $72,095
-- Assistant Professor $60,656 $65,046 $60,338
--Instructor $44,631 $51,850 $49,552
-- Lecturer $48,327 $56,745 $54,104
-- Professor $84,524 $101,568 $77,418
-- Associate Professor $69,021 $75,106 $62,775
-- Assistant Professor $57,348 $61,307 $53,138
--Instructor $46,682 $49,901 $44,696
-- Lecturer $49,534 $58,993 $43,322
-- Professor $73,534 n/a n/a
-- Associate Professor $61,141 n/a n/a
-- Assistant Professor $53,534 n/a n/a
--Instructor $46,786 n/a n/a
-- Lecturer $45,894 n/a n/a

The top five private research universities are unchanged from last year, while a new entrant to the list is Duke University instead of Northwestern University, which is no longer in the top 10.

Top Private Universities in Faculty Salaries for Full Professors, 2011-12

University Average Salary
1. Harvard University $198,400
2. Columbia University $197,800
2. University of Chicago $197,800
4. Stanford University $195,400
5. Princeton University $193,800
6. New York University $182,400
7. University of Pennsylvania $181,600
8. Yale University $180,400
9. Duke University $175,300
10. California Institute of Technology $172,800

The New Jersey Institute of Technology retains the top spot among public universities, and the other three top spots remain unchanged. The University of Texas at Dallas and Rutgers University at Camden are new entrants while the SUNY Brooklyn Health Sciences Center and Georgia Institute of Technology do not feature in the top 10, as they did last year.

Top Public Universities in Pay for Full Professors, 2011-12

University Average Salary
1. New Jersey Institute of Technology $166,600
2. University of California at Los Angeles $162,600
3. University of California at Berkeley $154,000
4. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor $148,800
5. Rutgers University at Newark $146,000
6. Rutgers University at New Brunswick $145,000
7. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $144,000
8. University of Maryland at Baltimore $142,600
9. University of Texas at Dallas $142,400
10. Rutgers University at Camden $141,800

Wellesley College retains the top spot among liberal arts colleges for the fourth year in a row. The three other top spots are the same as last year. Swarthmore College breaks into the top 10 at the expense of Wesleyan University.

Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in Salaries for Full Professors

College Average Salary
1. Wellesley College $149,000
2. Claremont McKenna College $143,000
3. Barnard College $142,300
4. Amherst College $138,900
5. Harvey Mudd College $135,600
6. Williams College $135,100
7. Pomona College $134,600
8. Swarthmore College $131,400
9. Colgate University $130,700
10. Smith College $130,100

Some community colleges, especially in New York, have average salaries for full professors that hover around the $100,000 mark. But participation rates in the survey among community colleges tend to be low, with only 204 taking part this year. Six community colleges from the City University of New York probably belong on this list. They typically have average salaries for full professors that are above $100,000, and have been on the list in years past, but the AAUP said that CUNY did not submit its data on time this year.

Community Colleges with the Highest Average Salaries for Full Professors

College Average Salary
1. Westchester Community College, NY $119,100
2. Suffolk County Community College, NY $111,200
3. Orange County Community College, NY $98,900
4. Miami University, Hamilton, Ohio $98,300
5. Miami University, Middletown, Ohio $93,300

Last year, there were six institutions with average salaries for assistant professors that topped $100,000. Three other universities -- Carnegie Mellon University, Rutgers University at Newark and Babson College -- join the list this year.

Institutions with 6-figure Average Salaries for Full-Time Assistant Professors

University Average Salary
1. University of Pennsylvania $112,300
2. California Institute of Technology $111,300
3. Harvard University $109,800
3. Stanford University $109,800
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $102,800
6. University of Chicago $102,600
7. Carnegie Mellon University $101,100
8. Rutgers University at Newark $100,200
9. Babson College $100,000

On the opposite end, there are several universities that pay less than $40,000 in average salaries to assistant professors.

Colleges with Lowest Average Salaries for Full-Time Assistant Professors

College Average Salary
1. University of Politecnica de PR $29,700
2. Lackawanna College $35,700
3. Tabor College $35,900
4. AIB College of Business $36,600
5. Kentucky Christian University $37,600
6. Union College, Kentucky $37,900
7. Ohio Valley University $38,800
8. Bluefield College $39,300
9. Lees-McRae College $39,400
9. University of the Southwest $39,400


Search for Jobs


  • Viewed
  • Commented
  • Past:
  • Day
  • Week
  • Month
  • Year
Back to Top