There is a specter haunting the opinion-fueled reality that is the "sense" that there is a crisis in higher education. That spectral presence howls to any who would listen (and there are many) that the great driver of cost increases for universities are "staff" salaries--faculties and others who are a necessary evil (the chief engine in the "production" of university product--tuition paying graduating students).
This specter feeds on "numbers"--that collection of data that when appropriately packaged appears to --definitely-- suggest a single and privileged view of the "reality" of the "price" of education--the need to pay people to do it. That vision is made manifest through a simple calculus. When one aggregates the full cost of the provision of salary and benefits to staff against all of the other costs of operating a university, then those costs tend to dwarf the others. But that says little more than that faculty and staff constitute the largest factor in the production of revenue. It both states the obvious but in a way that suggests something more. And indeed it could suggest the opposite of the purpose for which is is trumpeted--that the larger the percentage of faculty/staff cost, the larger the university and the greater its aggregate revenues.
More interesting but less often used are measures of productivity. These are less often used because the obligations of faculty are not just to churn out class contact time. Faculty are also leveraged by the university to produce prestige (and thereby increase the "quality" of revenue from higher status students, and as a draw for students from other states) and to generate revenues through grant income. More difficult still is quantifying "free" time, the time universities expect faculty to perform that nebulous duty: service. Because these measures are hard to assess, most universities either engage in acts of dissimulation--they reduce faculty productivity to student contact related time (and thus create a tension between internal expectations of productivity and public measures thereof).
More interesting still, if our aim is to measure burdens on revenues, might be to shift the assessment gaze from faculty/staff toward administrators. Thus, for example, a very different picture of "drags" on revenue generation appear when one compares aggregate increases in salary/benefits for faculty against aggregate increases in salary/benefits for administration and athletic personnel. This generates a host of issues--from the assessment of administrative productivity (a measure that universities might appear to be as eager to resist as these institutions have been enthusiastic about applying sometime incomplete or misleading measures to faculty productivity for public consumption). Indeed, if faculty salary/benefits have been substantially flat for the last several years, while those of the administrative and athletic personnel have been increasing and increasingly substantially above the rate of inflation, then it might be possible to conclude that the greatest drag on the growth of marginal revenue lies with administrators and athletics personnel rather than with faculty/staff.
This conclusion might be deepened when one begins to understand that the composition of faculty/staff has changed substantially since the 1980s. Then virtually all of the teaching staff was made up of the more expensive tenured and tenure track faculty. Now over half of teaching staff at most institutions are composed of much cheaper contract staff.
At Virginia Commonwealth University, for example, the number of full-time professional non-faculty positions grew by 54.2 percent, from 570 to 879, from 1987 to 2011. During that period, the number of part-time faculty increased from 215 to 1,191, or 454 percent.As a consequence, it might be possible to argue that while the per person service expense of faculty/ staff in the aggregate has been flat to negative, that of administrative and athletic personnel has been steeply positive.
Full-time faculty not on tenure track increased from 152 to 1,070, while tenured faculty increased from 511 to 678 and tenure-track faculty rose from 161 to 250, according to the AAUP. (Karin Kapsidelis, Focus on academics is waning, professor group says, Richmond Times Dispatch, April 6, 2014).
And thus one confronts the spectral quality of the simpleminded but pernicious canard about faculty and staff as a drag on the academy. But this is a specter whose power can be felt either to produce outside pressure to reduce the "cost" of faculty for example by depressing wage markets, or to increase "productivity" by augmenting the obligations of faculty. The specter also serves as a cloaking device--making invisible the substantial drag on revenues of administrative "costs" and protecting these individuals from the same pressures to provide more effort for less pay. together this suggests that the fight for the hearts of minds of consumers, students and policy makers will be largely won or lost by the persuasive quality of the management of data into coherent stories.
At the moment, university administrations and their allies have managed that task well--obscuring their own complicity in the threats to university revenues even as they shift focus to a faculty and staff that can serve as the critical element of efforts to minimize costs through attrition, work load increases, the abandonment of tenure (usually through a passive-aggressive use of "market" forces as a cover), and the deepening of status (and pay) divisions among research and teaching faculty. It will be interesting to see if faculty and staff might be able to refocus the quantitative analysis to their own advantage. In either case, what is clear is that the current level of qualitative analysis--of the management of data to produce a coherent and "truthful" story, leaves much to be desired.
One gets a flavor of this from a recent posting, Jena McGregor, Here’s what the average full-time professor made last year, Washington Post, April 7, 2014. Referencing the American Association of University Professors (AAUP's) recent report, Losing Focus: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2013–14, April 7, 2014, Ms. McGregor suggests that while pay increases for college professors are slowly on the rise, they continue to lag far behind those of senior administrators and athletics leaders on campus.
Portions of Jena McGregor, Here’s what the average full-time professor made last year, Washington Post, April 7, 2014 and the press release for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP's) recent report, Losing Focus: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2013–14, April 7, 2014, follow.
Jena McGregor, Here’s what the average full-time professor made last year, Washington Post, April 7, 2014
Pay increases for college professors are slowly on the rise, but continue to lag far behind those of senior administrators and athletics leaders on campus.
That's one of the findings in an annual study of professors' pay and college spending, released today by the American Association of University Professors. It reports that for the first time in five years, average pay increases for all full-time faculty members slightly beat the rate of inflation, rising 2.2 percent on average. Full professors at public doctoral institutions made $126,981 in salary in the 2013-2014 academic year, and instructors at those schools made $50,032.
Presidents of public doctoral institutions, meanwhile, saw their salaries rise 11.3 percent on average over the past seven years. And presidents at top private universities saw even higher average raises: 17.3 percent over the same period, compared to 7.2 percent for professors at the same schools. (Private schools tend to pay their faculty more.) Pay for senior administrators, such as chief academic officers or chief financial officers, saw increases similar in scale to their presidents, or even higher, at both public and private doctoral institutions.
Saranna Thornton, a professor of economics and business at Hampden-Sydney College and the chair of AAUP's Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession, says that no one expects faculty and presidents to get paid the same amount. Even if the salary growth rate were the same, she explains, there's an understanding that the two pay scales would deviate over time. "But even accounting for that divergence," she says, "we're still seeing, particularly in past decades, presidential salaries skyrocketing."
So have those of head coaches. The study found that between the 2005-2006 academic year and 2011-2012, the median compensation for men's head basketball coaches at NCAA's Division I-A schools went up 102 percent. For head football coaches, it was 93 percent. Over the same period, meanwhile, the growth in median compensation for professors at doctoral institutions was just 4 percent.
Even among less popular sports, there was a big difference in coaches' and professors' pay. Men's tennis coaches at Division I-AAA schools, for instance, saw a 20 percent increase over the seven-year period. Administrators "have been saying we’d like to give faculty increases but we can’t afford to," Thornton says. "Then we see the kind of increases in what coaches are getting, even in lower [divisions] in minor sports that are not revenue generating."
The study also compared the changes in how universities are spending their money. At public four-year institutions, spending on instruction rose just 0.9 percent per full-time enrolled student between the 2003-2004 and 2010-2011 school years, and academic support costs rose 1.5 percent. Meanwhile, spending per student athlete rose 24.8 percent. While the low academic increases partly reflect state cutbacks in appropriations for public universities, private four-year institutions also saw a sizable differential: Spending on instruction grew 5.1 percent over the eight- year period, while athletic spending grew 28.9 percent.
. . . .
"One of the myths that we want to explode," Thornton says, "is that it’s faculty salaries that are driving the increase in higher education."
“Losing Focus” AAUP Releases Faculty Salary Report
April 7, 2014
For more information, please contact: John Curtis or Samuel Dunietz.
Washington, DC—Developments in recent decades—diversion of resources to administration, ballooning of contingent positions, and runaway spending on athletics—signal that our colleges and universities are losing focus on their academic missions. Losing Focus: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2013–14, released today by the AAUP. The AAUP’s annual report has been an authoritative source of data on faculty salaries and compensation for decades.
The report begins with results from this year’s AAUP survey of full-time faculty compensation. The data indicate that the post-recession stagnation in full-time faculty salaries is not yet over. On average, salaries for full-time faculty positions are 2.2 percent higher this year, edging above the rate of inflation for the first time in five years. Faculty members continuing at the same institution earned average salary increases of 3.4 percent, but that is still well below pre-recessionary levels. Again this year, full-time faculty salaries rose more rapidly at private-independent than public institutions, especially at doctorate-granting universities.
The explosive growth in administrative positions is the second major topic in this year’s report. The number of full-time nonfaculty professional employees more than quadrupled between 1976 and 2011, and employment in non-tenure-track faculty positions more than tripled. The number of full-time senior administrators also more than doubled during this period, while tenured and tenure-track faculty employment grew only 23 percent. Both in the longer term and in the immediate post-recessionary period, salaries for the most senior administrators have risen much faster than those of full-time faculty members. While faculty and staff members were told there was no money for raises or continued benefits, presidents were scooping up double-digit percentage increases in salary. Suffering from a decades-old case of “administrative bloat,” higher education is losing its focus.
More evidence that our institutions are losing focus on the academic mission comes from a review of spending on athletics. Between 2003–04 and 2010–11, inflation-adjusted per-student spending on instruction declined at community colleges, and it increased only 1 percent at public four-year institutions and 5 percent at private four-year institutions—but spending per athlete jumped 35, 25, and 29 percent, respectively. Even as institutions purportedly struggle to pay for academic programs, funds seem to be available for athletics. Data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) indicate that the most rapid increase in spending during the last decade was in Division III, where there are no athletic scholarships or big-time television contracts. US Department of Education athletics data show that the number of athletes rose more rapidly at private four-year institutions than in other sectors. Part of the reason is the increased emphasis on athletics in Division III institutions as a means to boost enrollments—and tuition revenues.
Between 2005–06 and 2011–12 median salaries and benefits for head coaches in NCAA Division I-A men’s football and basketball doubled after inflation. Even coaches in “minor sports” racked up increases in compensation far above those earned by faculty members. The evidence is strong: current institutional decision making emphasizes athletics to the detriment of academics and student success.
The report is available on the AAUP’s website.. AAUP members receive a copy of the complete print edition as a benefit of membership., Non-members may purchase the print version for $95 by visiting the AAUP's online store. Custom peer comparison reports are also available, which we provide free of charge to active AAUP chapters. These reports are also available to non-members at additional charge.
The authors of this year’s report are John Curtis, AAUP director of research and public policy, and Saranna Thornton, professor of business and economics at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and chair of the AAUP’s Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession. Media representatives can arrange an interview with Dr. Curtis. Professor Thornton is available by e-mail. General media inquiries about tables, data, or survey methodology should go to Samuel Dunietz .
The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, promote the economic security of those who teach and research in higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities. The AAUP is a nonprofit professional association headquartered in Washington, DC.
John Curtis or Samuel Dunietz
Monday, April 7, 2014