• August 30, 2015

Professors' Pay Rises 1.2%, Lowest Increase in 50 Years

Faculty Salaries Rise 1.2%, Lowest Annual Increase in 50 Years 1

The Daily Illini/Wesley Fane

At the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, faculty members have held teach-ins, like this one in February, to protest mandatory furloughs. Even without taking such furloughs into account, national salary growth for college instructors this year was the weakest in at least half a century.

"No Refuge," the title of the American Association of University Professors' latest annual report on faculty salaries, gives a nod to the economic realities from which higher education has been unable to escape. Among them: A paycheck that barely grew from the year before.

SEARCHABLE DATABASE: Explore the Full AAUP Faculty-Salary Survey

In 2009-10, the average salary of a full-time faculty member rose only 1.2 percent. That's the lowest year-to-year increase recorded by the association in the 50-year history of its salary survey.

To make matters worse, an inflation rate of 2.7 percent meant that many professors actually had less buying power than the year before. In fact, two-thirds of the 1,141 institutions surveyed over two years gave their faculty members either a pay cut, no raise, or an increase of less than 2 percent, on average.

In the report, which covers the economic status of the profession, the association urges professors to help institutions chart their course "for a return to normalcy," even as they face continuing program cuts, furloughs, and layoffs of tenured professors that mark an economy struggling to rebound.

According to the association, the average pay for a full-time faculty member in 2009-10 is $80,368. At research institutions, that figure is $91,060; at master's institutions, $70,807; at baccalaureate colleges, $67,232; and at two-year colleges, $59,400.

"No one becomes a professor because they expect to get rich," says Saranna R. Thornton, a professor of economics at Hampden-Sydney College and chair of the AAUP's Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession. "But I don't think professors are any different than anybody else in that they don't want to see their purchasing power go down. There's nothing immoral about wanting to make a little more money than you did last year."

Faculty salaries that have barely squeaked past the inflation rate or failed to keep pace have been the norm for much of the last 10 years, according to the association's annual surveys.

However, faculty pay in 2009-10 was further battered by unpaid furloughs, the effects of which are not reflected in the report. Ms. Thornton says institutions report standard base salaries to the association as opposed to what employees are actually paid.

Still, evidence abounds that professors are seeing pay cuts packaged as furloughs. In January the University of Illinois system announced that faculty and staff members must take four furlough days by May 16. Administrators are required take 10 days off to help the institution make up a $400-million shortfall.

The Campus Faculty Association, a watchdog group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has organized four "common" furlough days (the third one was held just last week) during which teach-ins will take place to bring attention to the effect furloughs have on teaching and research, says M. Megan McLaughlin, president of the organization and an associate professor of history.

Retirement-Contribution Cuts

The AAUP report also highlighted another austerity measure that is likely to make a difference to faculty members ready to scale back. About 14 percent of institutions reported that they had reduced contributions to employees' retirement funds, which could make it more difficult for professors to retire when they had planned. Among the institutions that have cut back on retirement contributions this academic year are Brandeis University and Meredith, Dana, and Belmont Abbey Colleges.

But as some faculty members weigh the financial practicality of retirement, newly minted Ph.D.'s and others are looking to crack a dismal academic job market. The association notes that 2009 brought about a sharp drop in job openings for professors, particularly for scholars in English and foreign languages. For many job seekers, the quest to become a member of the shrinking pool of tenure-track professors meant applying for an opening, only to discover later that the search had been canceled in the face of budget cuts.

The report says circumstances are ripe for faculty members to become involved in "developing recovery plans"—a scenario that it says is a silver lining of the economic downturn. The association also calls for professors to join budget-planning committees so they can weigh in on how their institutions should set future spending priorities.

Joseph A. Konstan, a professor of computer science at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, is eager for such discussions to begin on his campus. Last month the Faculty Senate voted to approve a temporary 1.2-percent pay cut for professors, to help the university save about $28-million. But Mr. Konstan says the pay cut is merely a stopgap solution.

"The budget crisis will only get worse in fiscal 2012," Mr. Konstan says. "A one-time pay cut doesn't solve anything when it comes to our problems going forward. The ideal thing would be if this year bought us a little bit of time to start implementing a more thoughtful program."

Ms. Thornton, who wrote the AAUP report with John W. Curtis, the association's director of research and public policy, says professors need to "make time" to get involved in campus budget issues. "Faculty need to be consulted on what kinds of cuts need to be made and how those cuts should differ across different disciplines," she says.

Professors at Urbana-Champaign, however, say efforts by the administration to get the faculty's opinion about the institution's budget crisis have been weak. "When money is not there that was there in the past, the issue becomes how do you spend the money that you do have," says Harriet Murav, a professor of Slavic languages and literature and an organizer for the faculty association. "I feel like there's a public front—yes, we'll talk to you—but behind the scenes, policy has already been made."

As for the "return to normalcy" that the association wants professors to be poised to shape, it won't be happening anytime soon. The economy has battered nearly all of higher education's revenue streams—including tuition, fees, state appropriations, charitable giving, and endowment investments. Ms. Thornton says it will very likely be another fiscal year, if not two, before college and university finances improve. Slow job growth nationally for the next year and a half means unemployed people will still be struggling to pay tuition, and annual giving will continue to suffer as well, she says. On the brighter side, a stock market that has begun to bounce back means institutions that rely on their endowment for operating expenses "will start doing better."

A turnaround for public colleges will probably be the farthest off, Ms. Thornton says, because state tax revenues, which usually lag behind economic recovery, are "going to take a while to come back."


1. dubious - April 12, 2010 at 08:06 am

Salary is only one part of compensation. The article mentions contributions to retirement plans. What about the increased out of pocket costs and cuts made in health insurance coverage? Even before the Great Recession, we were expected to pay more for less coverage.

2. octoprof - April 12, 2010 at 08:12 am

I am curious to know if the majority of the colleges who are giving raises this year are those that are contractually obligated to do so. Otherwise, I'm fairly surprised that any schools are giving raises.

3. mawgui - April 12, 2010 at 09:46 am

Pay is going up less than inflation? By the lowest amount in 50 years? "There's nothing immoral about wanting to make a little more money" says Prof. Thornton. All well and good... but this is a major recession... and academia should be pleased that they have appear to have suffered well less than those who pay the tuition that pays their wages.

4. 11178355 - April 12, 2010 at 09:49 am

I'd like to point out that the median household income in the United States in 2008 (latest year for which data is available from the U.S. Census Bureau) was only $50,303, more than $9,000 less than the average salary for an individual full-time faculty member at a two-year college.

5. rightwingprofessor - April 12, 2010 at 09:51 am

By any supply-demand standards most professors are overpaid. The reality is most tenured professors could never get hired at a similar position elsewhere, they are stuck forever with their current employer. Further, there are probably 200 people willing to take the same job for much less pay.

6. procrustes - April 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

Adding to number 4's comments the median household income is for a household (often more than one job) and typically reflects people working 40 or more hours a week, 12 months a year. Not people who get the summers off, are always seeking course reductions, and complain if they have to come in more than two days a week. I do have a number of very hard-working colleagues, but on the whole the tenured professsoriate needs to clean up its act substantially before complaining about pay or working conditions.

7. carolineroberts - April 12, 2010 at 11:12 am

Speaking of faculty members making contributions, the report reads as a call to arms for professors as a whole, especially when it comes to financial awareness. Present and future academics must keep better tabs on where the money is going in their departments and in their universities.

An "I got mine" attitude won't work in the face of budget cuts. Even if your department doesn't get cut or your pay doesn't get cut now, that doesn't mean it won't be reduced later on.

8. jfetter - April 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

This does seem to be much adue about nothing, but the dramatic rise in part-time faculty hires, who make barely more than a graduate student, is the untold story here. The real question now is, or should be, what graduate student in his right mind would limit his options to academia? It would, however, be nice if tenured professors would recognize the economic realities confronting the rest of us and not stigmatize those who, for purely economic reasons, take a job in another profession rather than either living on welfare or making less than a worker at Walmart to teach four classes a semester at a community college. Maybe this reduction in pay increases, effectively a pay cut, will help them see sense in this regard.

9. jason_hochberg - April 12, 2010 at 11:20 am

What about the administrator salary increase during the same period??? We have just found out about the substantial admin pay increase that happened on our campus last Fall and was kept under the radar for months. To make things worse, the administration already knew about the forthcoming budget cuts imposed on education by the Governor Jindal. Needless to say, the moral among the faculty is at the lowest level in years.

10. intered - April 12, 2010 at 11:30 am

It would be delightfully rational -- and shocking to most -- if productivity metrics accompanied these statistics. We would see that the more we make, the less we teach and that, collectively, we have been producing fewer and fewer credits over the years.

11. rmusser1 - April 12, 2010 at 11:35 am

Maybe substracting a bit from 3-6 comments. It is like any descently paid profession. Most of us spent 12 years in higher education like Optometrist, M.D., Dentist. That means I did not collect a descent pay check until my 30's meaning low 40k assistant prof. (as a scientist). Also that meant a substantial loss of income I could have made during my 20's. Perhaps if I was smarter, I would have drilled teeth, perscribed pills or glasses 100-300k a year. For that matter do just about any other profession nursing, pipefitting, be a plumber. And gotten paid during my 20s a descent salary. During my ph.d., post-doc and the the first four years on the tenure track I averaged over 60 hours a week. I don't get paid in the summer, yet there is not a summer even now I have not worked a descent number of hours. So don't get me wrong, I have a great job, descent pay and a great way of life. But I am not getting rich working while only working 5 hours a week or something. Even are deadwood you may be referring to works more than that... I would also suggest much of the high cost of higher education does not go to just salary, but nice recreation centers, coaches that get paid hundreds of thousands. If I got paid directly 1 freshman class could easily have paid my salary several fold...

12. smcdonald999 - April 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

"To make matters worse, an inflation rate of 2.7 percent meant that many professors actually had less buying power than the year before."

Does the AAUP really believe professors deserve an ever-increasing amount of buying power adjusted for inflation? Any concern that rapid declines in productivity are causing families to take on crushing amounts of debt to pay for an education.

You'd think they'd try to downplay the fact that this trend has been going on for the last 50 years. Certainly seem like the perfect argument for capping salaries based on a productivity per-student-educated basis.

13. jason_hochberg - April 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

"intered" must be an administrator. The statement "We would see that the more we make, the less we teach and that, collectively, we have been producing fewer and fewer credits over the years." could not be more off the target. I believe that (s)he should speak for {him | her}self. I work my b... off, bringing large amounts of grant money to my institution just to see people in the administration who do not even come to work on a regular basis (severe lack of supervision!) get a raise!

14. jedgar023 - April 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Professors are essential to academic organizations, but why are you complaining about a low increase in pay in one of the largest economic recessions in history. The unemployment rate is at all time highs and universities across the nation are having to cut back their programs because of lack of state funding. Meanwhile, student's continue to take tremendous hikes in tuition in the range of 8-20% depending on what state universities are located.

What professors really need to realize is that times are tough. Don't expect great pay increases and enjoy the flexibility and other benefits to your job. Heck, if money is so important do some consulting side work, it can be a great substitute to base pay.

15. educ8or - April 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I'm in total agreement with 11 and 13. This data is national and from all types of universities, not just "research" or "tenure-track" institutions. I teach at a private, not-for-profit, non-tenure track university, with heavy teaching loads contracts. In spite of our heavy teaching obligations, everyone I know teaches extra courses for "shamefully low extra pay" just to make ends meet and maintain the standard of living that a "professional" is supposed to have.
The others who have written saying all is well are either administrators, or in denial, or don't have their heads screwed on right.

16. intered - April 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Exceptions abound and I made no comment about administrators, one way or the other.

That said, anyone can do his own research or productivity using NCES and other available data. Or, you can settle for a "quick check." What was your university's standard teaching load by rank in 1960? What is it now?

While productivity has increased dramatically in most sectors of the economy in the last 50 years, higher education has defined a nearly flat but declining line. If you plot the curve against compensation, things begin to look much worse. Were I in the young professoriate today, I would embrace (rather than deny) the facts and challenge my colleagues to become accountable leaders. They are capable and will need only exchange the cultural wraps of their 19th century guild for something more modern.

Most studies show higher education to be the most conservative of the large American institutions. Although ironic because the professoriate views itself as highly progressive, this conservatism is not necessarily bad, but it can go too far as it has in defending against becoming more accountable and productive. The professoriate could easily become a voice of leadership in society. Instead it is marginalized because it refuses to change and lashes out in self-interest against valid charges.

17. physicsprof - April 12, 2010 at 02:02 pm

"While productivity has increased dramatically in most sectors of the economy in the last 50 years, higher education has defined a nearly flat but declining line."

I thought that productivity actually increased. If you believe UC president Yudof's recent Chronicle article, "the fact is that the university of California has half as much money per student today as it did in 1990". It is hard to reconcile this with allegedly declining productivity of HiEd.

18. fortej - April 12, 2010 at 02:26 pm

#11, it's "decent"

19. mossmad - April 12, 2010 at 02:29 pm

What perplexes me is the claim of a 2.7% year-over-year inflation rate. Suppose one must decide on salaries during the summer before the fall semester starts. According to the Consumer Price Index table at ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt, the CPI was 219.964 in July 2008 and 215.351 in July 2009, which implies 2.1% deflation. A 1.2% pay increase therefore would constitute a 3.3% increase in real purchasing power. The January 2009 to January 2010 change in CPI was +2.7%, but that change includes months following the summertime salary decision. Presumably, salaries of the 2010-11 academic should reflect the late-2009 rise in CPI.

20. unemployedacademic - April 12, 2010 at 02:35 pm

Intered's comments on Chronicle article's have shown him to be subject to myopic ignorance of the highest order. If it were not completely obvious how his firm's destructive philosophy (increase your scalable content!) is closely aligned with the foolish ideology rotting contemporary academic administrations, I would suspect that his enterprise is a satirical joke.

Intered, your stupendous failure of analysis is to work from the premise that the only measure of an academic's productivity is his or her teaching duties. As you should be well aware from your contact with universities, the primary reason that teaching productivity has 'declined' (where it has) is the administrative wealth grab that has been orchestrated by shifting ever-increasing amounts of tenured and tenure-track duties to publication and 'service' (meaning managerial supervision of the ever-increasing number of contingent faculty, who have assumed more and more of the teaching 'production' as a whole, but not individually since that would entail paying benefits and decent salaries). Almost all declines in 'productivity' are not the result of "Mandarin" academics working fewer hours as you have so despicably claimed in other comments. Your assertions are both misguided and unfairly destructive.

21. intered - April 12, 2010 at 03:00 pm

I could not readily get back to the 1990 UC budget but from the UC budget website (http://www.ucop.edu/budget/pubs.html), the 1997-98 UC Instruction budget was $2.1 billion. The 2010-11 Instruction budget is $3.6 billion, a 71% increase. Looking at the total university budget, 1997-98 looks like $6.8 billion (backing out externally funded operations) and $16.6 billion for 2010-11, a 144% increase. If you include externally funded operations, the 1997-98 budget is $8.9 billion for an 87% increase. (The external funding dollars are not readily available in the current budget summary.)

I have no doubt that there is considerable noise in these summary numbers, and they are complex enough that we can argue about various allocations. No variation will obscure the fact that they outstrip growth in the GDP, CPI, etc.

Someone else will have to figure out how Mr. Yudof can make the claims he has made. Presumably he is speaking about direct state funding which has no logical bearing on the fact that productivity (e.g., credits and degrees produced per budget dollar, credits and degrees produced per dollar of instructional salary, and credits and degrees produced per instructor) is declining.

22. rmusser1 - April 12, 2010 at 03:09 pm

18. fortej is that the only typo you could find? I have a lot more than that typo! Now what do you bring to the table of any true intellectual merit versus being a spelling checker? Can I send you manuscripts too???

Actually who is complaining? I got the best job on the planet. Also what is productivity just teaching in the classroom? I work with several students each semester on research that never shows up as "teaching". And undergraduate research was not as big of a deal in the good old hardworking days.

Also I agree the real tution hikes are bs for students. However, it is not too those "outrageously" paid faculty. It is new buildings, great rec centers, tons of extracurriculars. I am fine with sucking up a cost of living raise every now and then for the betterment of everyone. But my 2% or 3% is a drop in the bucket compared to the "real expenses" in the unversity.

23. marka - April 12, 2010 at 03:22 pm

Hmmm ... Reasonable minds may differ on what metrics are important - productivity in terms of students graduated, or articles published, or ... . For me, as the parent of a daughter finishing her sophomore year, I'm more interested in the moment in students graduated/credits taught, or some such. I was actually surprised how much academics make nowadays -- as some have already noted, above the median for full time work elsewhere, and many don't work on a semester system, with large blocks of time free from tighter scheduled work. And a general rise in salary, in a time of higher unemployment, occasional deflation, and many workers with pay decreased, is a bit surprising as well. I concur, generally, with intered, et al. Most of us - parents, taxpayers, students - are much more interested, especially now, with students graduated/credits taught. Academic articles published, which appears to be a prime metric in academics, is actually towards the bottom of most other priority lists. Just goes to show the widening credibility gap & loss of connection the Ivory Tower has to the rest of the world's realities ... .

24. unemployedacademic - April 12, 2010 at 03:51 pm


Indeed, your post illustrates exactly why intered's comments are so destructive. First, you need to understand that academic salaries vary widely based upon the perceived value of the disciplines. Law, business and medical faculty are often paid much more than those in the humanities. At many places, the starting salary of an assistant professor of business is above that of a full professor of English. Contrary to what many free marketeers might suggest, this imbalance is not due to some natural law of wages based on rationality, but to our irrational overvaluation of corporate ideology relative to the value produced by the humanities. Second, you need to understand that the reason tuition has been increasing so rapidly is not due to the lack of productivity on the part of the faculty - indeed, education is now being subsidized by the "involuntary charity" of many contingent faculty - but a realignment of values in our country. For the past 40 years, the economic elite have been siphoning off ever greater percentages of the wealth produced by American resources. Part of the wealth has been siphoned away by lowering employee compensation (lower wages, fewer benefits); part by casino capitalism (playing roulette with pension funds and mortgages backed by government bailouts for loser corporatists); and part by shifting the financial burden of education from society via tax-based subsidies to individuals via higher tuition. In this whole process, very little of the blame can be placed on faculty laziness. Most faculty work as hard as the average American and have been consistently pressured to 'do more with less.' The students who suffer because of diminished access to education are feeling the effects of Americans' fantastic belief that you can get something for nothing.

25. rmusser1 - April 12, 2010 at 03:56 pm

23. Marka- Well, when your daughter reaches junior and senior level classes would you rather have her in a one on one experience with a professor where she can learn to become a generator of ideas? Or would you rather have the factory education where she is one of hundreds of others students in the classroom where she just needs to bubble in her answers? The later is far cheaper and is the reality for most.

Also as a scientist, academia is where a majority of basic research is generated that can lead to cures and such. Do you value the US being a leader of research or just a follower of other countries? Also a Ph.D. is a research degree, that is what we are trained to do? For many of us teaching is a method we pay for the privalge to do research. As because mentioned, tax payers prefer not to pay for research, it is time consuming takes a lifetime of dedication to come up with something substantial...

As for as ourselves be paid so much, do really think people will want to spend their complete youth in higher education (over 12 years in college (remember this is as much schooling as most health professionals making drastically better wages) and be compensated an average or below average wage? Then probably plan on never seeing another US born academic (which is becoming the reality). When I was an assistant professor and 50K in debt I got to drive to my beat up up old van, while many students would show up in their modern vehicles. I was working 60 hours a week at the time. Sure it is flexible schedule and Iworked lots of hours? Were not rich, but we can get to a point we live a comfortable life in our 40's.

We also see this trend. People will spend unlimited money to save their kid from a disease. But nobody wants to spend unlimited money on their education. You see this from the early childhood caregiver to the professor. Again the money is going to the extras, you can't get a traditional student to come to your school unless you have solid extras: Big name sports, nice swimming pool, etc... I love nothing more than to see tution come down in price!!!

26. intered - April 12, 2010 at 04:20 pm

We hear such silly things from academics. To wit, the empirically vacuous dichotomy:

"A student taught one way will
become a creator of ideas.
Taught another way, he will not."

By the way, the lowest average class sizes are generally found in the independents and the for-profits. Average independent tuition: $26K. Average for-profit tuition: $14K.

As we have said, many among the old guard professoriate may make their living teaching the sciences but they neither understand nor practice them when they teach or think about teaching. If only these darned old facts wouldn't get in their way.

27. physicsprof - April 12, 2010 at 04:31 pm

"Academic articles published, which appears to be a prime metric in academics, is actually towards the bottom of most other priority lists. Just goes to show the widening credibility gap & loss of connection the Ivory Tower has to the rest of the world's realities..."

Marka, doesn't it occur to you that the goods you consume (from fabrics to electronics to cars) and services you receive (health care, internet, phone coverage) that can reasonbly be called "world's realities" have anything to do with "academic papers published"?
How ironic and short-sighted!

28. patgott - April 12, 2010 at 04:33 pm

True, most professors didn't go pursue our higher ed goals for the money. But I would like to be fairly compensated. At my rural University of Wisconsin four year campus, we're paid less than many of the local high school teachers AND those who work at the local tech colleges. (And some of those in the latter group lack graduate degrees, either at the PhD or MA/MS level). In the UW system, we're dealing with two years of furloughs and pay cuts (the raise we were given was withdrawn a month before it was to go into effect). In essence, our pay is 3-5 percent less than it was slated to have been.
I might add that I grew up in Wisconsin but was educated out of state. However, I was very happy to return to my home state eight years because I believed my state was committed to higher education. I still believe they are--many of our state's young people do achieve higher ed. degrees. However, we're increasinglly cramming students into substandard buildings and giving them huge sections where their profs are often scrambling to pay their rent and mortgages.(While I am single, it's very tough on families who teach at the college level. I know peers with families who have had to apply for food stamps at my university). It sometimes feel like we're all one step away from welfare in this state--teachers and students alike if the dwindling job situation here continues. And yet, the Department of Corrections seems to have no trouble funding its agenda--often at the expense of education, I would venture to guess, as WI devotes more money to its prison system than it does to higher ed.
I suspect it's not much different in many states.
Sorry this is depressing. I think we need to get those in charge to wake up a bit regarding the urgency of this issue before it's too late to effect any sort of long term change.

29. rmusser1 - April 12, 2010 at 04:42 pm

26. intered

Do you honestly think helping a student develop an undergraduate thesis is equivalent to a multiple choice exam? To be a scientist, you have to do science. A student might be able to come up with all sorts of ideas. But to formally work with the ideas and test them through rigourous study is another thing. I try to have most of my labs be about doing science. I also believe he in hard memorization too. But doing science is a thing students don't get enough exposure too. It is better to understand how those "facts" are generated by doing research, than just another class to memorize. They have already done that for 12 years when we get them as freshmen...

Now I can't make any sense of your last statement. What silly "facts" are you generating?

30. tom_washingtondc - April 12, 2010 at 04:51 pm

I am an adjunct faculty with a PhD who works part-time and I earn roughly $20K a year. I teach 3 classes 3-credit hours per class) twice a quarter term for 4 terms (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer). That comes out to 24 classes in a year. This is a lot of teaching for very little pay at $20K a year. This is why I am looking for another job and leaving academia. There is a lot of moral corruption amongst our academic leaders. It is sad to be a part of a 200+ adjunct workforce where everybody works at other jobs, even at fast food places, or are actively looking. It's ridiculous that there is so much wealth at the top administration and so very little for the adjuncts at the bottom. I'm glad that the full-timers got their pay increases when times are tough for adjuncts.

How do I manage? I receive unemployment benefits as a partial supplement to my part-time adjunct teaching job. Taxpayers have paid part of my way through graduate school and now they are paying my way through my adjunct teaching gigs. I bet lots of newbie graduates that experience adjunct life will be quick to leave the profession once they get a really good taste of the life of the mind . . . poverty and misery. If you stick with it, you have proven your commitment and are worthy for full-time work with average pay. I would rather abandon academia altogether and do something else. I am willing to accept a constant job search and to keep on the move to gain higher pay increases. It beats adjunct work and pay any day.

31. unemployedacademic - April 12, 2010 at 05:03 pm


Intered makes reference to what he thinks is the best research on pedagogy and effective teaching methods. What he fails to realize is that the methods he advocates are all skewed by his bitter bias against academics (who do have much to answer for in allowing things to reach this state) and his desire to please the administrators funding the accountability claptrap he peddles and that treats knowledge as a reified good to be produced like widgets in "scalable" production lines.

32. rmusser1 - April 12, 2010 at 05:16 pm

I see what you mean. Thanks

33. sarannart6 - April 12, 2010 at 11:09 pm

It doesn't make sense to compare faculty salaries to the median salary of US workers. The median US worker has about 1 year of college education. College faculty with Ph.D.s typically have about 10 years of higher education.

It makes more sense to compare faculty salaries to those of other professionals with graduate degrees (lawyers, doctors, MBA-holders, etc.). In such comparisons, college professors are well below the "median worker".

34. mercy_otis_warren - April 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm


Presumably when your daughter was college-shopping, she and you both understood that there is a difference between a teaching-intensive liberal-arts college, and a research-intensive university. (Although I'm not sure about this, as your claim that faculty who aren't currently teaching have time off suggests you are painfully uninformed about academia works.) It's a mystery to me why, armed with this information, you now trumpet the *ex cathedra* statement that "parents, students, and taxpayers* (as if academics weren't themselves formerly students, possibly parents, and definitely taxpayers!) care only about credit-hour productivity, and publishing articles is at the bottom of the list. If your top priority is how many courses faculty teach, and "students graduated," then why the hell didn't you send your daughter to a non-research-intensive teaching college?

Newsflash: And it's not the newsflash that almost every faculty I know (especially junior) not only works throughout the year (although in many cases we are only paid over nine months), but also almost every day. No, instead, it's that universities like that to which you ostensibly sent your daughter build their reputations -- and base their appeals to alumni, other donors, and grant committees -- on faculty research productivity, not credit hour production. (I see it now as an attractive tag line for a brochure--"our faculty never do frou-frou research, but they teach 6 classes a semester!") Let's assume for the sake of argument your daughter goes to her state flagship. That state flagship is not going to remain a very desirable one for long if it radically devalues that research. It will not attract as much money from external sources; it will not attract the out-of-state undergrads who pay premium tuition; it will not attract new, smart faculty whose smartness will show itself not only in those articles, but also in the classroom. (You are making the classic erroneous assumption that research has nothing to do with teaching. But if you're cool with your daughter learning only things that were current in 1954, that's your business.)

Just for the record, I'm TT at an R1 (that's most research-intensive), and I'm currently teaching 300 students. (This is, of course, in addition not only to my high research demands, but also student advising and work on multiple committees.) Since my monthly salary is 6k/month over 9 months, this semester I'm paid $20 per student each month. Is that low enough for you? (For that, I was in graduate school for nine years, or three terms in law school.)

Maybe your daughter should transfer to a school that doesn't offend your research-averse priorities. (Check out the Carnegie classification list to find those schools that share your commitment to credit-hour production.) But if you think research on, say, the history of Islam, or the Ottoman Empire, or the European crusades, or even French colonial literature has nothing to do with "the world's realities," then you're the one with a "loss of connection."

35. dobbsart - April 13, 2010 at 08:58 am

I love it when people who are in higher education can't even spell the work "decent" correctly when they use it multiple times. You see this stuff all the time. And people wonder why the supposed intellectual elite isn't getting paid what they would love to think they are worth.

36. dobbsart - April 13, 2010 at 08:58 am

Well, mea culpa. I just typed "work" when I meant "word." Goes to show what I know.

37. lotsoquestions - April 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

What's disturbing about Marka's comment is that she's voicing the concerns of most parents who send children to college without knowing that much about how it works. She believes that college costs too much because professors are overpaid, unproductive and presumably lazy.

I work at a university which last year hired 12 full-time, full benefits administrative and support staff for every TT professor. Parents don't think to question whether all those people are really necessary or how much all of those individuals actually contribute to either the student's experience or the problems faced by students today in terms of courses being oversubscribed, not being offered and so forth. (Perhaps instead of blaming the faculty and asking them to take a paycut, we could cut back on some of the personal training and aerobics classes offered at the student's Fitness Center. Maybe we could stop offering free massages to the students during final weeks. Maybe we could offer fewer choices in the dining room.)

I wish there was some way in which academics could work to educate the tuition-paying parent community about some of these realities.

38. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 10:52 am

Ha Ha! So 26 dobbsart your're human too, just like us intellectuals? What do you expect when someone who is just typing a quick text into a small box? People should worry more about the content. It is human to make simple spelling mistakes in this small box. So I will presume you knew how to spell the "word", word. Like you should presume I know how to spell "decent". I assure you I know how to spell "decent". Now as far as being an intellectual, I can say I have published discoveries that no one else in human history has discovered (I am Science Prof. not and English Prof obivously...) And I can assure you, that you would not have a "decent" comprehension of the science subject I research.

I guess I will leave it to 18. Fortej to do my proff reading rather that you. Opps. I just caught that typo "proof". However, I will leave it for you to catch. Ha! Everybody makes mistakes, let focus on important discussion points.

39. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

Can anyone else pick out the spelling and grammer mistakes I just made? There are several. No soup for me! Now out of my university!

40. j_bone - April 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm

It is human to make simple spelling mistakes in this small box. So I will presume you knew how to spell the "word", word. Like you should presume I know how to spell "decent". I assure you I know how to spell "decent".

No you don't. At least you didn't until someone corrected you. If you had misspelled it once, that would be a typo. The fact that you continuously used the SAME incorrect spelling throughout your post indicates that you actually didn't know how to spell it. Your BS might work in a classroom, but don't try to peddle it as being a typographical error. I find it difficult to take your opinion about higher education seriously based on the elementary school level spelling and grammar mistakes you are making.

Signed, another Ph.D scientist

41. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 01:17 pm

<Comment removed by moderator>

42. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 01:40 pm

Again I am hoping people we bring up "real" stuff, versus whether they "think" I can spell the word decent. I assure you that I can spell the word decent even before being corrected on this forum.

no matter what my "peer" review thinks... Anything more substantial out there?

43. j_bone - April 13, 2010 at 02:10 pm

<Comment removed by moderator>

44. procrustes - April 13, 2010 at 02:33 pm

I certainly hope that there aren't too many tuition-paying parents reading these blogs. Many of the posts are a true embarrassment and reveal the shameful state of much of the Academy.

45. intered - April 13, 2010 at 02:48 pm

Ah yes . . . the oft demonstrated ability of the professoriate to wander, neigh, lunge off track.

Early in this discussion, I mention that it might be in our interest to address the steep inverse productivity curve and the gradually declining productivity rate. Pow! I look up to see someone hurdling conceptually irrelevant and empirically inaccurate statistics about the UC budget as if I had somehow been put in my place.

More incoming! A strident attempt at excoriation for my purported recommendation of multiple-choice examinations. (Irrelevant, but for the record: I almost always recommend against MC examinations. Unfortunately, even though they are a provably inferior method of assessment on many fronts, they represent the dominate method of assessment in higher education. Roughly 50% of the MC items and tests you write fail modern measurement science standards; your essay tests perform worse. If you want to challenge me, don't hurl epithets. Let me analyze a random selection of few hundred of your test datasets. I have analyzed more than 100K of them.)

Then, meandering through the balance of the posts, I find more argumentative fallacies than I might expect to find in the Letters to the Editor section of the local newspaper. (I am forwarding this entire blog to a former philosophy colleague to use in his 205 Logic class.) Along the way, I see an "outsider' pondering the education of her daughter with legitimate consumer-oriented questions, perhaps just musings. What do you do? Instead of helping her through the issues, as true professional would do, she is attacked by, among others, a graduate slave laborer who is, somehow, implicitly defending whatever there to mean by "teaching 300 students" while telling her that if she doesn't like research universities, she should damn well get out. Wow!

Then one is treated to the "Typo war." Enough said on that.

Do any of you see how your insularity, arrogance, self-serving behavior, and (more than occasional) apparent lack of rationality are leading to your demise? You can keep shooting messengers or you can thank them for caring and clean up your act. No, I don't want to hear about how hard you work or be regaled with any 1% extreme outliers proffered as behavioral counterexamples to what I have said. I am already in possession of the large, mainstream facts that cannot be refuted with bad logic and personal attacks.

Really, professoriate, it would be so simple. Listen to the consumers. Work with them to meet their needs while helping them see beyond their current understanding in your area of specialization. Hold yourself accountable. It's not all that different from what we are asking from the banks. But then, we're not getting a constructive response from them either.

46. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 03:24 pm

48. intered,

I have to say I like you. It sure beats the typo wars. That is for sure! And I probably could work on better proof reading. It is easy for my eyes to see things spelled correctly when there not, which others might call a learning disablity...

I don't think I was "attacking" Marka, but it is true that some of us were a bit defensive, but that is the nature of the beast and the implications of the writing on a public forum. I have not met a professional from any field that can't banter with each other. I don't think we need to cover the ears of the parents. Don't let the kids find out we are fighting. These are parents, they are adults like the student we teach. They have their own disagreements too, they should understand so can Professors, and those that want to be professors like "j_bone Ph.D. scientist". Ha! And yes I really published a first authored paper in nature and have large grants. And trully the best thing about the grant is that I get to help students do research. I just didn't need the name calling... But allas he does not know me...

And in reality writing is never a clear cut communication. But I stand by the notion to train real scientist, you need to do real science. I am not talking about test...

Either way intered you have some substantial points to consider. However, it is clear your selling a product/service?

Thanks for something new to read.

47. intered - April 13, 2010 at 04:05 pm

I am not selling a product or service. Our small organization turns away about four prospective clients for every one we agree to help. We give away probably 80% of our intellectual products via weekly Executive Briefings. It's a boutique service and, after countless years of operating otherwise, we enjoy the luxury of being able to pick and choose, with no aspirations of changing our small size.

That said, we represent a substantially different business model than public or independent universities (independents receive almost as much taxpayer support as public universities). Also contra the earlier aspersion about wanting to please administrators, we are direct in our dealings with college presidents and VPs (our clients). We are often said to be brutally so. To their credit, they may cringe a little at the truth but they come back for more of it. The professoriate could function that way as well. It is such a waste to see such bright people laboring under a dim old culture.

I could not agree more about training scientists. I never said or implied otherwise. Training scientists well, under years of closely mentored tutelage as was my case, represents authentic learning. The prominent feature of authentic learning is that it transfers and generalizes efficiently. The problem is that we sometimes (often in fact) fail to recognize that the desideratum in method is authenticity not research tutelage. The latter is right for scientists in the making and wrong for business people (or educators, or nurses, etc.) in the making. Each profession requires a different instantiation of the idea of authenticity. By and large, we fail to deliver that differentiation, instead shoehorning everyone into our Procrustean research bed. Why? Because we are all wrapped up in our dim culture that tells us we are beyond accountability and the judgment of lesser mortals. We do not listen. We look foolish to the rest of the world.

None of this is personal to me. I am saddened to see so many instances in which the professoriate can no longer argue about the concepts, values, and facts, then retire to the pub for camaraderie. Something has been lost and this blog exemplifies it. Look at how much effort has been expended to drag us back to the core values that should define academic inquiry.

48. jasher617 - April 13, 2010 at 04:15 pm

As the parent of three children, this statistic might be interesting to you all as you ponder academic pay. My first child entered college in 2000. His tuition, room and board and fees was $28,000. My third child stated at the same college last fall. Her bill was nearly $51,000. Clearly pay, and an aggressive building program to create the attactive facilities needed to draw students is pricing the select colleges beyond the grasp of most. So smaller pay increases at a time of high unemployment, widespread layoffs and paycut for many hardly seems like a serious trial to those in academia

49. j_bone - April 13, 2010 at 04:16 pm

FYI intered, I've seen professorial spats that are more and less childish than this one and everything in between. They range from philosophical differences in the proper way to mentor students to jealousy over which professor talked to more of the cute prospective grad students during orientation.

50. intered - April 13, 2010 at 04:44 pm

53. jasher617 - The majority of the budget is personnel costs and the majority of that is faculty compensation. You did not mention whether you were referring to a public or independent institution. Publics are seeing their state funding cut back, severely in some cases. At the same time, the publics are losing market share in the form of their profitable programs to the for-profits and some independents. Instead of recognizing and addressing the internal drivers of their deep inefficiencies, they are attempting to make up for it by raising tuition, sometimes to outlandish levels. We predict that the system is near the breaking point.

I would shop carefully. It is quite likely that your daughter can get a better education somewhere else for half the money.

51. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 04:52 pm

I want tution cut badly! I am not suppose to encourage students of this, but go to community college first. Someday I will have kids in college too. I mean higher education bubble seems to be bursting, at least for illinois public schools. It is not being explained well to parents, just sold on the premise that is the high living, low working professors. Don't get me wrong, there is deadwood everywhere. I will survive a cost of living raise, whatever it takes to help the situtation. But I just found out there talking about building a sports stadium to please a new coach.

52. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 04:53 pm


By the way thanks for the info.

53. cranefly - April 13, 2010 at 05:46 pm

"I'd like to point out that the median household income in the United States in 2008 (latest year for which data is available from the U.S. Census Bureau) was only $50,303, more than $9,000 less than the average salary for an individual full-time faculty member at a two-year college."

Right, and does the median household have a PhD???

54. j_bone - April 13, 2010 at 06:07 pm

Not to worry, Prof. M, I'm not a stalker type, just a jackass. I mainly wanted to see if you worked in the same field as me (chemistry) and you don't. I have no plans for anything beyond that, I had my identity messed with and didn't appreciate it (which is why I'm sure to make use of the anonymity that the internet offers).

Clearly, I have deep-seeded resentment towards academics (and am a bit of a stickler for spelling) and I aimed that in your direction unfairly, so I apologize for being boorish and immature. You're right, it's not easy for anyone, academic or industrial, I shouldn't have belittled your accomplishments.

Anyways, I'm more than happy to move on beyond this silly conversation and tackle the real issue. I believe faculty are underpaid for the amount of schooling they have to do (for slave wages at that). I don't necessarily see a smaller pay increase as a bad thing in this current condition, but I also don't think they're making too much money (I feel the same about elementary and high school teachers). Keep in mind that I also attended California educational institutions, so $50-60K annual salary is pathetically small in a state where studio apartments cost $1000 a month unless you live in or around a shady neighborhood.

As a point of note, Mark Yudof makes more money than Barack Obama. Even in CA, he could comfortably live off MUCH less. There are scores and scores of stories of inappropriate UC spending on administrative positions while faculty were let go. I don't think faculty salaries are the problem.

55. rmusser1 - April 13, 2010 at 06:17 pm

Dr. J. Bone,

Thanks. And admittedly I have been wasting time with my obsession with checking the next post, what would be said next and the silly one upmanship. It proves that we have flexible schedules! I should be working, and will try to make up for it tonight.

By the way I am a weak chemist, got a GC hand me down and will to try to fix it up to measure volatiles...


56. j_bone - April 13, 2010 at 07:38 pm

Ha ha! Me too, I've been checking between experiments. I guess no matter how "grown up" you are you're never too good for a verbal sparring match sometimes, eh?

But on the subject of sports, I love basketball as much as the next guy, but does John Calipari really bring that much more to Kentucky that he deserves to make more than the entire tenured faculty of a department? (~$4 million annual for those of you wondering, plus $200K buyout of his Memphis contract).

57. jsch0602 - April 13, 2010 at 08:40 pm

Professors of law, medicine, engineering and business are generally well paid because there is a market for their skills. A person with a medical degree can work in many areas. If you want to run a medical school you have to pay competitive wages. A person with a degree in ethnic or gender studies has a choice between a university job or Starbucks.

58. unemployedacademic - April 13, 2010 at 11:04 pm

True, jsch0602, but it's not because the market is rational, efficient or just. There are currently a glut of out-of-work lawyers and lower-echelon financiers (the masters of the universe apparently quickly found new jobs scamming people). Will the salaries for beginning assistant professors in these two areas plummet? I doubt it. Our national myths about the value of these degrees will sustain the imbalance in pay relative to the humanities. Now, note that I am not advocating the diminishment of their salaries. Rather, I am advocating the raising of salaries for humanities profs. (I would, however, support the radical redistribution of wealth from the elite to the rest of society. There is no moral justification for the current concentration of wealth in our society.)

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.

  • 1255 Twenty-Third St., N.W.
  • Washington, D.C. 20037
subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.