Tuesday, April 12, 2016

AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015–16

The American Association of University Professors announced the publication of the AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015–16. The report, published in the March-April issue of Academe, includes the results from our annual Faculty Compensation Survey.  Salary transparency is one of the most important elements of administrative discipline in a culture, like that of the United States, in which employers have been able to shroud their salary and pay decisions in secrecy, "for the protection of employees."

March-April 2016 (The Compensation Survey) Volume 102, Number 2 . The March-April issue is available for download as a pdf. There are two choices (AAUP member login required for both versions): A .pdf formatted as a spread for online viewing or A printer-friendly pdf. This year, some materials are being published online only. They are not in the print issue or the .pdfs listed above, but you can download them here: Online-Only Feature: Innovative Faculty Research, by John Barnshaw; Additional survey report tables ; Appendices, which contain listings for individual institutions.

The Press release with links follows.

Today, I’m proud to announce the publication of the AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015–16. The report, published in the March-April issue of Academe, includes the results from our annual Faculty Compensation Survey, which for decades has been the premier tool for exploring full-time faculty salary and benefits at two- and four-year colleges and universities. With more than 1,000 institutions participating, the survey is the largest faculty compensation survey in higher education with current (2015-16) data, including data on more than 385,000 faculty.

The report notes that inflation-adjusted full-time faculty salaries increased by 2.7 percent between the 2014–15 and 2015–16 academic years. However, there are at least two reasons why this number may be misleading. The first is a methodological change that has had a one-time effect of making the salaries of full-time assistant, associate, and full professors appear higher than they otherwise would. The second underlines a systemic threat to higher education: full-time tenure-track faculty positions are still in sharp decline.

Over the past four decades, the proportion of the academic labor force holding full-time tenured positions has declined by 26 percent and the share of full-time tenure-track positions has dropped by 50 percent. The increasing share of faculty positions that are classified as part-time and off the tenure track has resulted in declines in student retention and graduation rates and in an exploitative, two-tiered system. And a “faculty compensation” survey that does not include faculty in part-time positions is less and less representative of the true landscape in higher education.

As an organization made up of faculty in many different types of positions, we know that it is imperative to collect information on compensation in what is now the majority of faculty positions. This year, for the first time, the survey includes data about the amounts paid to faculty in part-time positions.

The average part-time faculty member earned $16,718 from a single employer. Part-time faculty at doctoral institutions earned $26,321; those at master’s institutions earned $14,272; at baccalaureate institutions, $14,849; at associate’s colleges with ranks, $15,056; and at associate’s colleges without ranks, $9,803.

For a number of reasons discussed in the report, this data cannot be collected in the same detail as data on full-time faculty compensation, and what we are able to report this first year is limited to the average paid by institutions in each reporting category per part-time faculty member. Despite the limitations, the inclusion of data on part-time faculty positions is an important first step toward better capturing the full dimensions of the academic labor force, and we will explore the feasibility of improved benchmarking in this area.

In many respects, higher education is at a crossroads. We can continue down the current path of increasing reliance on part-time faculty positions and accept the negative consequences, or we can take bold steps to rebuild the tenure system that made American colleges and universities the best in the world. If institutions of higher education are to excel over the coming decade, colleges and universities must develop plans to convert part-time non-tenure-track positions to full-time tenure-track positions.

Our report this year calculates the cost of developing such plans, which can be undertaken at an average cost of 2 percent of institutional expenditures per year over a period of four to eight years.

The decline of the tenure system did not occur overnight. Changing course will not be easy, but this year’s report identifies opportunities for savings that faculty members and administrators can use to defray or offset the cost of conversion. Over the long term, efforts to improve the security of the faculty can yield benefits for students, communities, and our nation—and, ultimately, strengthen the economic status of the profession.

You can access the report online, as part of the March-April issue of Academe, and in pdf form at http://www.aaup.org/issue/march-april-2016-compensation-survey. You will also find links to online appendices and other supplementary materials.

Through an arrangement with Inside Higher Ed, data are also available here in an easily searchable database.

John Barnshaw
Senior Higher Education Researcher

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