AAUP Releases Faculty Salary Report

For Immediate Release: April 9, 2012
For more information, please contact: John Curtis or Robin Burns

Washington, D.C.— Officially, the Great Recession ended almost three years ago. Unfortunately for many, the improvements in the economics of higher education are barely noticeable. This academic year is the third in a historic low period for full-time faculty salaries, which failed to meet the rate of inflation again this year. Some who work in part-time faculty positions have justifiably criticized the lack of information about their situation, even as they have become the majority within the faculty. Our students are facing escalating tuition bills and student loan debt, and wondering what’s driving those increases. And the “Occupy” movement has drawn a new level of attention to the issue of income inequality, an issue the AAUP’s annual economic status report has taken up for many years in the context of colleges and universities.

A Very Slow Recovery: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2011–12, released today, is now available. The AAUP’s annual report has been an authoritative source of data on faculty salaries and compensation for decades. 

In addition to listing average salary by faculty rank and gender at 1,250 colleges and universities, the report provides an important perspective on the economic challenges facing higher education.

Here are some highlights:

The overall average salary for full-time faculty members rose 1.8 percent from 2010–11, falling well short of the increase in the cost of living during the year. At 2.9 percent, the average salary increase for faculty members who remained employed at the same institution barely kept pace with inflation. And as has been the case for many years, salaries in the private sector generally rose faster than those at public colleges and universities.

This year’s analysis debunks the myth that faculty salaries are driving tuition prices upward.

  • Tuition prices have risen two, three, or four times as fast as full-time faculty salaries. 
  • For public colleges and universities, a major factor in tuition increases has been the withdrawal of state and local funding. 
  • The rise in tuition prices has coincided with rapid growth in part-time faculty appointments that pay incredibly low wages and usually do not include benefits.

This year’s report also takes another look at the compensation of college and university presidents. What signal is sent when presidential salaries continue to increase while those of faculty members are stagnating?

Collective bargaining rights have come under attack from legislators and governors in several states, who assert that public-sector workers are overpaid relative to workers in the private sector. This is not true with regard to faculty salaries, since the overall private-sector advantage continues to increase. But exactly what is the impact of unionization itself on faculty salaries?  This year’s report provides a fresh analysis.

Finally, the AAUP is part of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, which has collected new data on the compensation and working conditions of academics in contingent positions.  The coalition’s initial report will be released later this spring.

The primary author of this year’s report is Saranna Thornton, economics professor and department chair 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 Professor Thornton by contacting her. General media inquiries should go to Robin Burns at AAUP. For specific data or comparison questions, contact  John Curtis, AAUP director of research and public policy.

The report is available on the AAUP’s website. Print copies are available for purchase through the AAUP’s online store and cost $95.00. AAUP members receive a complimentary copy.

The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has approximately 47,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Media Contact: 
John Curtis or Robin Burns
Publication Date: 
Monday, April 9, 2012