The American Association of University Professors is today reporting an increase in average faculty salaries of 3.8 percent -- the same as last year. But because inflation is up this year to 4.1 percent from 2.5 percent, the association says that this year's increases point to a real decline in faculty standards of living.
The annual data from the AAUP -- which include campus by campus averages for various faculty ranks -- are widely discussed and used by faculty members and administrators to measure institutions' competitiveness in attracting and retaining talent. This year's data show the continued gaps between haves and have-nots in higher education. At 15 research universities this year, the average salary for full professors is more than $150,000 (with Rockefeller University in the lead at $191,200); and the number of institutions where the average salary for associate professors hits six figures is 15 this year, up from 7 a year ago. But at another 16 colleges and universities, the average salary for full professors does not top $50,000.
Gaps are also visible between public and private institutions. The top paying 15 research universities (as well as the top liberal arts institutions) are all private. Of those institutions paying six-figure average salaries to associate professors, only one is a public institution (New Jersey Institute of Technology). And the AAUP study does not include part-time professors, who tend to be paid significantly less (even on a pro rated basis) than full-time professors, and who tend to receive far fewer benefits. The full AAUP report on salaries as well as tables showing individual figures for various colleges will be available today on the AAUP Web site. 
While the accuracy of the figures for individual institutions and categories by rank are widely praised as definitive, questions are being raised this year about the way the AAUP has calculated the overall increase in average salary. That is because the AAUP has reported increases for every subcategory into which it groups faculty salary data that are higher than the total increase.
Here are the data, as provided by the AAUP:
Average Salary and Percentage Increase by Rank, 2007-8
|Category||Average Salary||1-Year % Increase||Number of Faculty|
The original totals released by the AAUP to reporters did not include the subcategories of lecturers or unranked full-time faculty member (generally a group found at community colleges) and Inside Higher Ed asked the AAUP for those figures separately, assuming that their average increases would be less than the 3.84 percent average given for all groups. But the figures provided show that those two groups' average salaries went up by more than the total given, and that those two groups are not a large share of the total AAUP pool.
Some others who have looked at the data believe that the apparent inconsistency -- that all the subgroups in the total have a higher percentage change than the total -- reflects a statistical problem created because the AAUP does not use weighting. The AAUP simply calculates its averages by adding up all of the salary dollars (per category and total) and dividing by the number of faculty members -- basic averages. The problem may be that the pool changes each year -- there are not the same number of full professors or unranked full timers in the pool from year to year, so a pure comparison may overstate or understate the average change from the previous year, some believe.
The American Council on Education took the base numbers provided by the AAUP, along with the data on the number of people covered by the figures last year and this year, and applied such a weighting so the same share of people in different job categories would be compared. When the ACE ran those numbers with weighting, it found an average increase of at least 4.1 percent, not 3.8 percent.
Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the council, called the AAUP's analysis "a curious result that stems from a flawed methodology." While the 0.3 percent difference between the weighted and non-weighted averages may be small, he noted that "it changes the entire analysis" of the AAUP that faculty salaries are falling behind inflation.
Hartle said that he has great respect for the AAUP's work collecting this data each year, and that presidents rely on it as "an important source of information." He also said that his concerns focus only on the way the AAUP calculates totals that cross faculty ranks, so that he is not raising questions about the accuracy of the individual campus figures or the calculations within ranks. "But it's important that this study be 100 percent accurate," he said.
Saranna Thornton, an economist at Hampden-Syndey College and chair of the AAUP's Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession, said that Hartle's criticism was "a legitimate research question." She said that because of the way the academic job market is changing these days, it may be more appropriate to consider medians rather than averages in the future. But she also said that every labor market changes, so that the numbers the AAUP released were valid in that they showed the average salaries in each of two years.
Further, she noted that even with the ACE analysis, faculty members are keeping even with inflation, not beating it, so this does not negate the association's point about the purchasing power of faculty paychecks.
Thornton said that the real issue is one of priorities. Professors are earning modest raises, while colleges and universities pay ever increasing sums to presidents and coaches. To drive home that point, the AAUP released figures on the ratio of salaries of presidents to full professors at various types of institutions.
Ratio of Presidential Salaries to Full Professors' Salaries, 2007-8
|Doctoral - public||3.49||1.91||6.24|
|Doctoral - private||3.49||2.55||6.00|
|Master's - public||2.83||1.84||4.60|
|Master's - private||3.13||1.26||7.62|
|Baccalaureate - public||2.52||1.47||4.28|
|Baccalaureate - private||3.18||1.16||8.56|
|Public community colleges with ranks||2.49||1.46||5.05|
Gaps between public and private professors continue to grow, especially at the doctoral level. Last year's survey found that the average salary for a full professor at an independent private institution was $30,194 more than the equivalent at a public institution. This year, the gap grew to $34,687. For assistant professors at doctoral institutions, the gap grew from 12,0924 to $13,421.
Average Salary by Rank and Sector, 2007-8
|Two-Year Colleges With Ranks|
Top 10 Lists
So which institutions are on top of the salary list this year? A key caveat for all of the top 10 lists is that they do not reflect cost of living. Institutions on the top 10 lists tend to come from expensive areas to live, and the buying power of some salaries at institutions in rural areas may be higher.
The following is the list for research universities, always the most highly compensated category. The top seven institutions are identical in order to last year's list and the new arrival at No. 8, Columbia University, did not participate in the survey last year, and probably would have made the list had it done so.
Top 10 Private Research Universities in Average Salary for Full Professor
|1. Rockefeller University||$191,200|
|2. Harvard University||$184,800|
|3. Stanford University||$173,700|
|4. Princeton University||$172,200|
|5. University of Chicago||$170,800|
|6. Yale University||$165,100|
|7. University of Pennsylvania||$163,300|
|8. Columbia University||$162,500|
|9. New York University||$162,400|
|10. California Institute of Technology||$162,200|
Among public research universities, there is considerable change this year, with the University of Maryland at Baltimore grabbing the top spot from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. But some of the institutions making the list this year may not be on for long. The University of California, which typically is a major force in this category and last year occupied slots 2, 3, and 10 with its Los Angeles, Berkeley, and San Diego campuses, respectively, did not participate. The AAUP was told that problems with new database software made it impossible to provide the data on time.
Top 10 Public Research Universities in Average Salary for Full Professor
|1. University of Maryland at Baltimore||$142,700|
|2. New Jersey Institute of Technology||$139,500|
|3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||$138,500|
|4. University of Michigan||$137,000|
|5. Georgia Institute of Technology||$134,700|
|6. University of Virginia||$132,700|
|7. Rutgers University at Newark||$130,600|
|8. Rutgers University at New Brunswick||$130,100|
|9. Rutgers University at Camden||$129,100|
|10. Cornell University (statutory units)||$127,800|
Among liberal arts colleges, Wellesley College retained the top spot while -- in a sign it may pay to work at women's colleges -- Barnard moved up two slots to claim second place.
Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in Average Salary for Full Professor
|1. Wellesley College||$139,100|
|2. Barnard College||$132,000|
|3. Amherst College||$131,700|
|4. Claremont McKenna College||$129,900|
|5. Pomona College||$129,100|
|6. Harvey Mudd College||$128,500|
|7. Swarthmore College||$126,500|
|8. Williams College||$126,400|
|9. Middlebury College||$125,800|
|10. Wesleyan University||$124,500|
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.
Top 10 Community Colleges in Average Salary for Full Professor
|Community College||Average Salary|
|1. Westchester Community College||$108,300|
|2. Queensborough Community College||$98,300|
|3. Hostos Community College||$97,900|
|4. LaGuardia Community College||$94,800|
|5. Miami University at Hamilton||$94,500|
|6. Union County College||$94,000|
|7. Borough of Manhattan Community College||$92,900|
|8. (tie) Bronx Community College||$92,000|
|8. (tie) Kingsborough Community College||$92,000|
|10. Tunxis Community College||$85,100|
Institutions at Which Average Salary for Associate Professor Is at Least $100,000
|1. Stanford University||$122,200|
|2. California Institute of Technology||$120,200|
|3. Babson College||$110,100|
|4. Thomas M. Cooley Law School||$108,200|
|5. (tie) Princeton University||$107,500|
|5. (tie) University of Pennsylvania||$107,500|
|7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology||$106,400|
|8. Claremont Graduate University||$106,200|
|9. Harvard University||$106,100|
|10. New Jersey Institute of Technology||$105,300|
|11. Cornell University (endowed units)||$103,400|
|12. University of Chicago||$103,300|
|13. Duke University||$102,500|
|14. Northwestern University||$100,500|
|15. Dartmouth College||$100,000|
For the first time, the top average salary for an assistant professor tops $100,000.
Top 10 Universities in Average Salary for Assistant Professor
|1. California Institute of Technology||$101,300|
|2. University of Pennsylvania||$95,900|
|3. Harvard University||$95,400|
|4. Stanford University||$94,300|
|5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology||$93,300|
|6. University of Chicago||$90,700|
|7. Bentley College||$90,500|
|8. Cornell University (endowed units)||$89,800|
|9. Claremont Graduate University||$88,500|
|10. Northwestern University||$87,900|
While some colleges boast of high salaries, many in higher education work for a fraction of what the big-name institutions pay. At these 16 institutions, the average salary for a full professor is not more than $50,000. Many of these institutions are small, religious colleges.
Institutions Where Average Salary for Full Professor Is $50,000 or Less
|1. Saint Paul's College||$38,300|
|2. Union College (Kentucky)||$39,200|
|3. Tabor College||$40,400|
|4. Lackawanna College||$41,300|
|5. Walla Walla University||$42,200|
|6. Kentucky Christian University||$43,300|
|7. Alderson-Broaddus College||$44,100|
|8. Missouri Valley College||$44,800|
|9. Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary||$45,200|
|10. Ohio Valley University||$48,100|
|11. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||$48,200|
|12. Antioch College||$48,800|
|13. St. Andrew's Presbyterian College||$49,600|
|14. Kansas Wesleyan University||$49,700|
|15. Oklahoma Panhandle State University||$49,800|
|16. Missouri State University - West Plains||$50,000|