2020–21 Faculty Compensation Survey Data

By Glenn Colby

Preliminary data from the AAUP’s 2020–21 Faculty Compensation Survey, including summary tables and institutional appendices, are now available at https://www.aaup.org/ARES. This year’s results show the dire effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the faculty, as institutions that were already struggling to balance their budgets slashed expenditures in response to new financial difficulties, implementing hiring freezes, salary cuts, cuts to fringe benefits, furloughs, and layoffs. Data collection for the AAUP’s 2020–21 Faculty Compensation Survey concluded in March, with 929 US colleges and universities providing employment data for nearly 380,000 full-time faculty members as well as senior administrators at almost 600 institutions. Participants reflected the wide range of institution types across the United States, including regional universities, community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and major research universities.

In addition to full-time faculty employment data, institutions reported data for more than 100,000 part-time faculty members who were employed in the prior academic year (2019–20). Additional information was collected this year to help understand how institutions responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nominal wage growth for all ranks of full-time faculty was the lowest since the AAUP began tracking annual wage growth in 1972, and average salaries decreased at 42 percent of institutions, with considerable variation by institutional category, control, and religious affiliation. On average, nominal salaries of full-time faculty members are 1.0 percent higher in 2020–21 than they were in 2019–20. In real terms, average salaries decreased 0.4 percent overall after adjusting for the 1.4 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index, the first decrease in real wages since 2011–12. In addition to lower average real salaries across all ranks of full-time faculty, the number of full-time faculty decreased at 62 percent of institutions, with decreases of at least 5 percent at more than 25 percent of institutions.

This year, more than 360 institutions provided data on pay and more than 430 institutions provided data on benefits for part-time faculty members who were paid per course section taught in 2019–20. The AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey is the largest source of such data and draws attention to the appallingly low rates of pay and benefits offered to part-time faculty at many institutions. Pay for part-time faculty members teaching a three-credit course section varied widely among institutional types, with average rates ranging from $2,611 per section in public associate’s institutions without ranks to $5,760 per section in private religiously affiliated doctoral institutions. Data on part-time faculty were collected for the prior academic year, 2019–20, to ensure that institutions could provide complete data records; consequently, analysis of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on part-time faculty will not be possible until data from next year’s survey are available.

This year the survey also asked participating institutions to identify how many faculty members—both tenure-line and non-tenure-track—were affected by particular actions taken by institutions in response to the pandemic. Findings indicate that nearly 60 percent implemented salary freezes or reductions, more than 30 percent eliminated or reduced some form of fringe benefits, and almost 10 percent implemented temporary furloughs for at least some full-time faculty. Institutions were more than three times likelier to terminate the contracts of non-tenure-track than tenure-line faculty this year; more than 5 percent did not reappoint or terminated contracts for at least some tenure-line faculty, and more than 20 percent did not renew contracts or terminated contracts for at least some non-tenure-track faculty. Almost 50 percent of institutions took other actions involving full-time tenure-line faculty, such as implementing early retirement programs, and almost 30 percent of institutions took some other form of action with non-tenure-line faculty.

Complete analyses of this year’s results will be presented in the upcoming Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2020–21, to be published online this spring and printed in August in the Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors (the summer issue of Academe).The report will discuss in much greater detail the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on faculty while supplementing this year’s survey data with historical data from multiple sources.

For information about additional data products available from the AAUP, visit https://research.aaup.org/order.