Monday, April 8, 2013

You Get What You Pay For: Penn State and the AAUP Salary Report 2012-13

In my recent "Statement of Senate Chair Made at the March 12, 2013 Penn State University Faculty Senate Meeting: Restructuring the Way We Operate" I spoke to the Faculty Benefits Committee’s 2012-2013 Report on Faculty Salaries.
(Pix from AAUP)

While Penn State’s salaries are still close to the salaries among other AAUDE institutions, Penn State does seem to have fallen slightly over the last year. The Report explains that ”the decline in Penn State’s competitive position is also reflected in the University’s ranking among selected peer institutions (Table 4). Among a group of 22 other public AAUDE institutions, Penn State has fallen from 5th in 2008–2009 to 9th for professors and 8th for associate professors in 2011–2012. Among the more limited group of Big Ten public institutions, Penn State continues to be among the top. However, the ranking among the Big Ten also shows some decline over recent years.” The Committee, however, notes that the wealth of data provided may of limited use, especially when employed on a comparative basis. It explains that “[t]here are also factors such as market forces, non-monetary compensation and benefits, lifestyle choices, professional reputation, and individual personality that are not reflected in the data.” Yet despite these cautions it is possible to discern areas of potential concern—everything from what appears in some units to be disparities based on gender to the sparseness of data based on race and ethnicity. More important, perhaps, is the need to include more information about fixed term faculty from the study. Though there are some information about fixed term faculty in the supporting tables, fixed term faculty remain virtually invisible within the university, at least with respect to considerations of salaries. Librarians fare only a little better. At an institution where fixed term faculty comprises almost half of our faculty, the absence of those numbers substantially distorts any effort to understand the salary structures of faculty here. I look forward to learning more as our administration addresses these issues. ("Statement of Senate Chair Made at the March 12, 2013 Penn State University Faculty Senate Meeting: Restructuring the Way We Operate")
The supporting materials of the Senate Faculty Benefits Committee Report are available on the web HERE.  

One of the interesting omissions from these salary reports is the relationship between rises in benefits obligations of faculty and the so called salary raises reported.  These salary reports are more optimistic than reality might suggest.  Where benefits payments exceed salary increases the net result are salary decreases rather than increases.  But salary reports fail to take this into account.  That presents a false picture of salary "progress". 

But university salary reports also paint a misleading picture in the absence of comparative data. This post contrast the Penn State salary report with that recently published by AAUP.  It suggests that institutions like Penn State may be at an increasing disadvantage in salary competition with its private sector competitors.   It might be useful to investigate this further.

AAUP LogoSalaries for full-time faculty members at American colleges and universities continue to recover slowly from the ongoing recession in higher education, but the longer-term trends are not promising. That’s the finding in this year’s annual report on faculty compensation and the economics of higher education (  issued by the American Association of University Professors.

AAUP director of research and public policy John W. Curtis, the lead author of this year’s report, says “the news this year is not all gloomy, but the silver lining is not exactly gleaming, either.” For full-time faculty members, after three consecutive years of increases in average salary levels that lagged behind inflation, the overall increase this year (1.7 percent) is just barely on par with the increase in prices. It’s not that faculty salaries rose more rapidly during the last year, but the inflation rate was low enough to keep them from losing any further ground. Full-time faculty members who remained at the same institution as last year received average salary increases that were also somewhat better this year than in recent years (3.2 percent) but still well below the level of average increases over the last ten years. Overall salary increases for faculty members at public colleges and universities continued to lag behind those at private institutions.

The report provides current data collected by the AAUP on salary and benefits for full-time faculty members at more than 1,100 colleges and universities. It also presents in-depth analysis of three perennial concerns and provides new data on each: The continuing rise of contingent (non-tenure-track) employment for faculty members, the sharp decline in state appropriations for higher education even after the end of the Great Recession in the broader economy, and the growing salary disadvantage for faculty members teaching in the public sector.
  • The large majority (76 percent) of college and university instructional appointments across the nation are now contingent: full-time faculty members off the tenure track, part-time faculty members, and graduate student employees. The AAUP report provides an update on the overall employment trend and a recap of important data on part-time faculty pay released in the last year. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW), of which the AAUP is a founding member, issued a report last year that found part-time faculty members earned a median of $2,700 for teaching a three-month course.
    This year’s report provides an entirely new analysis of compensation and working conditions specifically for full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, also derived from the CAW survey. The majority of new full-time faculty appointments have been off the tenure track for two decades now, but the category has previously been defined mostly by what it is not. The new analysis finds that full-time non-tenure-track faculty members earned a median academic year salary of $47,500 in fall 2010, similar to the pay of entry-level faculty members found in the AAUP data for that year. The difference, however, is that non-tenure-track faculty members have only limited-term appointments that do not constitute a career path, and they struggle with some of the same inadequate support for quality instruction faced by part-time faculty members. The report looks at four aspects of support aside from salary and benefits.
  • Two further public policy issues affecting higher education are included in the report: state appropriations and the pay disadvantage for public-sector faculty. The report includes a state-by-state analysis of changes in higher education appropriations during the recessionary period. The totals across all 50 states show an 18 percent decline in higher education appropriations between 2008 and 2013, but there are wide variations.
  • Finally, the report provides a new depiction of the continuing salary disadvantage for faculty members in the public sector. The AAUP data for 2012-13 indicate that full-time faculty members teaching at public colleges and universities earn 7 to 35 percent less than their colleagues in comparable positions at private institutions. This difference accumulates over the course of an academic career, and makes it increasingly difficult for public institutions to hire and retain the best faculty members.
The salary disadvantage experienced by faculty members at public colleges and universities, and the continued growth in exploitative contingent employment practices, are thus matters of significant public policy. The disinvestment from fully supported and compensated faculty positions in the public sector means that the majority of students will be deprived of the most engaged instructors and mentors. Elected leaders consistently proclaim that investing in higher education is a state and national imperative, yet the data on state appropriations and public-private faculty salary disparities belie these proclamations. Public officials need to hear from their constituents about the value of higher education, and, importantly, about the critical role of faculty members in providing that education.

The complete report (including the institutional listings of average salary by rank and gender and aggregate tables for comparison) is available on our website, and AAUP members will also receive a hard copy of this year’s report in the mail as part of their member subscription to Academe. Non-members may order a copy by visiting the online AAUP store ( for $95.00 or calling (202) 737-5900.

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