Survey on Higher Ed Staffing Levels

June 3, 2020

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources​, CUPA-HR, published its seventh survey of staffing levels in higher ed last month. More than 200,000 staff are counted in the survey, which includes salary and demographic data from 861 institutions during the 2019-20 academic year. The report covers office workers, maintenance staff and technical staff, in addition to other positions.

As higher education institutions respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and budget cuts, many may have to reduce their workforce. The authors of the survey said they will be closely tracking these changes and urged higher education leaders to keep "diversity, equity and inclusion efforts front of mind" as they make staffing decisions.

“Recent and historical data show that recessions hit women and people of color the hardest, both in terms of the fact that they are first to lose their jobs as well as the length of the recession’s impact,” said the report's authors. “As this report shows, women and minorities are better represented in higher ed non-exempt staff positions than they are in professional and administrative positions. Higher ed leaders will undoubtedly want to keep this in mind as they make workforce decisions that will impact the face of all higher education.”

Key survey findings:

  • Staff employees in higher education received a median percentage increase in pay of 2.4 percent last year, the largest increase since CUPA-HR began collecting data on nonexempt staff in 2013-14.
  • Most staff positions increase in number with increases in student enrollment. However, the increase in number of staff is much steeper for some positions, like custodian/housekeeper, than it is for others, like electrician.
  • The staff position with the highest growth is athletics equipment manager, with a 36 percent increase in number of positions in the last year. The position of recruitment coordinator had the greatest decline, a 53 percent decrease in number of positions.
  • Regional differences exist in higher ed staffing. Staff salaries are highest in the Northeast and West and lowest in the Midwest and South. The South and West have much higher representations of racial/ethnic minorities than the Northeast and Midwest.

An overview of the report is available here. The full report is available for purchase here.

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