(Please note: links to tables and figures in this document are in .pdf format)
For many years now, colleges and universities have attempted to balance competing demands from students, legislators, and society at large. Students are enrolling in record numbers, legislators and employers are demanding greater skill levels from graduates, and higher education is increasingly being called on to do the work of economic development; at the same time, the share of institutional funding provided by state and federal governments continues to decline. Given these competing pressures on institutions, financial decision making has become a matter of determining priorities. In this year’s report, we call into question the apparent priorities demonstrated by trends in relative spending on salaries for faculty, football coaches, and senior administrators and by the shifts in staffing that have reshaped colleges and universities so dramatically over recent decades.
The Year in Faculty Salaries
For nearly five decades, the AAUP has compiled comprehensive data on full-time faculty salaries from colleges and universities across the country. We begin this year’s report with an overview of the results of that survey; detailed aggregate data are presented in the survey report tables immediately following this report, and institution-specific figures are in two comprehensive appendices.
Table A puts this year’s findings in long-term perspective. The change in average salary levels between 2006–07 and 2007–08 is similar to the change between 2005–06 and 2006–07. But what is very different is the overall economic context, reflected in the change in “real terms” displayed on the right-hand side of the table. The rate of inflation between December 2006 and December 2007 was 4.1 percent, the highest level since the end of the 1980s. The increase in overall average faculty salaries thus lagged behind inflation for the third time in the last four years.
As we reported last year, it appears that a number of academic institutions, particularly those in the public sector, are increasing full-time faculty salaries to make up for several years of depressed pay rates. As a result, the increases in average salary levels shown in table A are relatively high when compared to previous years. But with inflation rising faster than expected at the end of 2007, faculty salaries once again represent stagnant purchasing power. The picture varies, however, among different categories of institutions, as reflected in survey report tables 1 through 3. (Those tables report changes in salary from the previous year; actual salary amounts for 2007–08 are presented in survey report tables 4 through 9.)
Survey report table 1 presents two different aspects of the increase in full-time faculty salary for 2007–08 and gives full detail on each broken out by academic rank and institutional category. The left-hand side of the table shows the percentage change in average salary levels for those colleges and universities that submitted data in both years. This figure includes both newly hired faculty and those who remained in their positions from the previous year. The right-hand side of the table summarizes data specifically for “continuing faculty,” defined in the AAUP survey as those faculty members who were employed full time at the same institution for both years. The “continuing-faculty increase” is the figure that best approximates the raise that an average faculty member might have seen for this academic year, although it does include the effect of promotions in rank along with other salary increases.
A continuing concern of this report has been the widening differential between faculty salaries in the public and private sectors of higher education. Although independent private colleges and universities—those not affiliated with a religious denomination—have long paid higher salaries on average than institutions in the public sector, the gap between the two sectors has been widening in recent years. This trend shows no sign of abating this year. According to AAUP data, a full professor at a public doctoral university in 1970–71 could have expected a salary equal to 91 percent of what a colleague at a comparable private university might earn. This year, the same average proportion has declined to only 76 percent, having dropped steadily over the decades.
Although some full professors are permanently settled in the communities where they live and work, others can be persuaded to move to new institutions, and these senior faculty members are in demand to assume leadership roles in new or expanding academic and research programs. When public universities cannot compete in terms of salary and other resources, private universities may be able to attract the best and most productive scholars. In 2007, as in other recent years, a number of media outlets reported on the concerns expressed at public universities whose established faculties were perceived to be targeted in hiring “raids.”
Public-private differentials for full professors at other types of institutions are less dramatic but can lead to similar results. Throughout the 1980s, average salaries at public master’s and baccalaureate institutions were competitive with the private sector. However, the 2007–08 data show that public-private proportions for these two categories have declined to 90 percent and 85 percent, respectively.
Institutions also compete to attract new faculty—who are often more mobile than senior professors—so it is important to look at the public-private differential with respect to assistant professors at an early stage of their academic careers as well. Here, too, the public colleges and universities appear to be at an increasing disadvantage. Since 1970–71, the average salary for assistant professors at public doctoral universities has slipped from near parity (99 percent of the private average) to only 83 percent. At public master’s universities and baccalaureate colleges, the disadvantage is not as great. While public salaries have declined in comparison to those at private institutions, the public average for assistant professors is still 98 percent of the private average at master’s universities and 97 percent at baccalaureate colleges.
Football Coach Salaries
Harley-Davidson Motor Company generates profits from the sale of branded T-shirts, jackets, gloves, helmets, boots, vests, sunglasses, even Christmas tree ornaments. But if the company began investing more resources in the manufacture of accessories than in the manufacture of its classic motorcycles, shareholders would demand to know what the company’s real priorities were. Ostensibly, the first priority of the universities with Division I-A football programs is higher education.1 A review of the growing financial resources these universities sink into their football programs might, however, lead one to question the real priorities of the institutions.
USA Today sought to acquire the contracts of the 120 head football coaches leading Division I-A teams during the 2007–08 academic year. Table B compares the newspaper’s data on coaches’ pay with faculty salary data collected by the AAUP.2
The base salaries and other income of fifty of the head coaches are at $1 million or higher. While “other income” includes payments for apparel contracts, public appearances, football camps, and items that may be paid by other sources, universities typically guarantee most of this income. The real number of millionaire coaches climbs substantially higher if one includes bonus payments for securing berths in bowl games or graduating certain percentages of the team’s players and other perks such as vehicles, country club memberships, and free tickets for varsity sports events.
Table B presents two years of average salaries for head football coaches, average salaries of full professors, and the ratio of the two for the eleven Division I-A football conferences. In 2007–08, the average salary of the coaches is $1,040,863, a 12.4 percent increase over the $925,683 average paid in 2006–07. By contrast, the average salary of full professors at these universities in 2007–08 is $104,523, 3.5 percent more than the $100,998 paid in 2006–07. In 2006–07, the average head football coach earned 9.2 times the average full professor’s salary; that ratio increased to 10 this year. What does this say about the priorities of Division I-A universities?
Although head football coaches, on average, earn more than twice the salary of full professors in every conference, the national averages do mask substantial differences between conferences. In the Mid-American Conference, coaches this year are earning 2.4 times the average salary of full professors. This ratio increased from last year because the average salary of full professors increased by only 2.3 percent, while the average salary of head coaches increased by 14.8 percent. By contrast, this year head coaches in the Southeastern Conference are earning 18.6 times the salary of the full professors who carry out the primary functions of their institutions, teaching and research. Full-professor average salaries are up 5.5 percent from last year but are dwarfed by the 36.4 percent increase in average head coach salaries. As we reported last year, new University of Alabama coach Nick Saban made headlines by securing a $3.5 million salary when he returned to the college ranks from the National Football League. But four of his conference colleagues also garnered salaries of more than $2 million this year.
One argument for paying high salaries to head football coaches in Division I-A is that the programs generate profits that can be shared with other university departments, including academic programs. Regarding football in particular, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) data for 2002–03 indicated that 68 percent of Division I-A programs reported profits, 28 percent reported budget deficits, and 4 percent reported breaking even. While football on average helps to subsidize other sports at Division I-A universities, athletic programs as a whole ran budget deficits. The average athletics deficit of $600,000 is a small amount when compared to a university operating budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but even so, NCAA data do not support the promise of football as a source of revenue for university academic programs.3Instead, it appears that any net revenues that may be raised by even the most successful football programs go to subsidize other athletic programs.
When asked by USA Today about the enormous salaries commanded by head football coaches, Louisiana State University athletic director Skip Bertman said, “I go back to professional baseball and Alex Rodriguez making $25 million a year. Or to Julia Roberts and $20 million for one movie. Are those people worth it? Of course not. But if that’s what the marketplace is and enough people are willing to watch Alex play or Julia Roberts in a movie, they have a right to get that. I don’t think this is any different.”
While analogies can be enormously useful learning devices, they don’t work if they aren’t accurate. Alex Rodriguez is paid $25 million by a professional baseball team that is a corporation whose function is to produce a winning team for profit. When Julia Roberts is paid $20 million to make a movie, she is being employed by a media company whose function is to produce entertaining films for profit. By contrast, most of the universities in Division I-A are public and thus subsidized by taxpayers. If the purpose of the institutions were to produce football entertainment for profit and serve as farm teams for the National Football League, then arguments about letting market forces determine college coaches’ salaries would make sense. Otherwise, they don’t.
In reality, only a few of the college athletes on the field, or of the students in the stands, will find their future success in life determined by what they learned on Saturday afternoons at the game. What will count most in the decades after graduation is what they learned from their professors in the classroom. And it is thus the academic program and the faculty in which taxpayers and alumni and other donors should be investing.
In a November 2007 interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Stephen J. Trachtenberg, recently retired after nineteen years as president of George Washington University, said,
I have always thought it was a terrible mistake on the part of the AAUP and other faculty groups to deride the compensation of university presidents, because it’s not an issue of what you pay presidents. It’s an issue of what you pay people in the academy. If the presidents are paid well, it follows, or it should follow, that the professor will be celebrated and honored and also fairly compensated. Paying your president reasonably is a good investment on the part of the faculty.
The AAUP and Trachtenberg are not in complete disagreement. The AAUP doesn’t deride presidents for their compensation packages. On the contrary, we believe that the point of salary analyses is not to pit one group in the academy against another. But parsing Trachtenberg’s statement yields important questions: Are the terms “paid well” and “fairly compensated” synonymous? Is there a direct causal relationship between presidential pay and faculty pay, and if so, how strong is it? Does it strengthen the academy to increase the compensation of certain groups of employees while using growing numbers of contingent faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students to depress the compensation of another group of employees?
George Washington University did make a substantial investment in Trachtenberg. In the most recent year for which we have data (2005–06), he was one of the eighty-one presidents from private institutions who earned more than half a million dollars in total compensation, with a pay and benefits package worth $706,133.4
The AAUP believes that the argument for paying faculty well is at least as strong as the argument for paying presidents well. The faculty carry out the core missions of the institution, teaching and creating knowledge. This fact does not diminish the importance of the many nonfaculty employees who keep the wheels turning at their institutions, but it does suggest that deploying resources to recruit and retain the best faculty is the most important investment a college or university can make.
One might wonder how it follows that if presidents are paid well, faculty will also be paid well. Trachtenberg’s statement asserts correlation but doesn’t explain the underlying causal mechanism. Ultimately, whether a well-paid university president will result in well-paid (or fairly paid) faculty is an empirical question. Last year’s report cast doubt on assertions of correlation between presidential and faculty salaries with a chart indicating that between 1995–96 and 2005–06 presidential salary increases were more than six times greater than faculty salary increases. Figures 1 and 2, based on more recent data collected as part of the annual AAUP survey, indicate that the gap in salaries between faculty and other top administrators is also widening.
Figure 1 shows the two-year change in average salary for each senior administrative position at private-independent and church-related colleges and universities that submitted data to the AAUP. At these institutions, the average increase in presidential salary substantially exceeded both the inflation rate and the average salary increases earned by full professors. For each institutional type, the percentage change in faculty salaries over the two-year period is approximately half of the percentage change in respective presidential salaries. Salary growth rates for other chief administrators have also exceeded the rate of inflation, and in all but one instance—the chief financial officers at private doctoral universities—have exceeded the growth rate in fullprofessor salaries. Since average salaries for these top administrative positions are typically twice those of even senior professors, the fact that they are also growing more rapidly indicates that salaries for administrators apparently have a higher priority than those for faculty.
At the public colleges and universities depicted in figure 2, the differences in the rate of recent salary increases are somewhat smaller. As suggested in the first section of this report, public institutions appear to have increased faculty salaries in the last two years in an effort to make up for smaller increases in previous years. That effort, coupled with somewhat smaller increases for top administrators than in the private sector, has resulted in the less rapidly widening gap depicted in the figure. Nonetheless, the basic conclusion is the same: a positive relationship between presidential and faculty salaries does not appear in the data for either public or private institutions. There does seem to be a strong positive relationship between higher pay for presidents and higher pay for other top administrators across institutional categories and across the public-private divide, however.
As Trachtenberg pointed out in his Chronicle interview, “college presidents are paid more than professors of French.” But, as he also noted, the large and growing differences in compensation for senior administrators relative to their faculties have moral and ethical implications. When market forces are widely offered as a reason why presidents, administrative vice presidents, and football coaches must be paid enormous salaries—while at the same time market forces are blamed for the continuing suppression of contingent faculty wages, the growing use of graduate students in undergraduate teaching, and the increasing length of postdoctoral fellowships—we would be remiss if we did not ask hard questions about priorities.
A college or university budget is a blueprint indicating where the institution’s priorities lie. Because higher education is a labor intensive venture, the allocation of staff across different departments within a college or university has significant impact on how the institution operates.
The AAUP has long championed academic freedom and tenure because these conditions are necessary to ensure that faculty can consider a wide range of viewpoints in their teaching and research and are not restricted to whatever perspective happens to be popular or profitable at the moment.
Faculty participation in academic governance is an essential check and balance at a time when U.S. colleges and universities are embracing the operating strategies of for-profit corporations with growing fervor. Students are viewed as “customers” and faculty are coming under pressure to alter curricula to provide the courses that the customers want, regardless of the value of those courses in contributing to the goals of a postsecondary education. Colleges and universities increasingly conceptualize higher education as a commodity and attempt to provide it at the lowest cost. They do so by reorganizing themselves as “knowledge factories” in which a variety of internal functions (for example, dining services and facilities maintenance) are outsourced to for-profit contractors who pay their workers minimum wages and in which the central teaching and research functions are outsourced to legions of poorly paid non-tenure-track adjunct faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students.
While faculty governance is necessary to ensure that the operating decisions of colleges and universities are pedagogically sound, arguably the extent of governance that faculty exercise over their institutions is on the decline and has been for decades. Former AAUP general secretary Mary Burgan comments on this troubling phenomenon in her recent book, Whatever Happened to the Faculty?
For most of the history of U.S. higher education, faculty members performed the key administrative functions. The college president, dean of faculty, dean of students, and director of admissions were professors who simultaneously wore faculty and administrative hats. The bird’s-eye view of the institution’s different functions that faculty administrators had gave them an advantage in understanding the pedagogical consequences of administrative decisions, and their institutions benefited from their broad base of knowledge. In the post–World War II years, however, college and university enrollments grew dramatically, and specialization increasingly characterized professional administrative staff positions. This movement away from generalists and toward specialists has accelerated during the past twenty years, creating a disconnect between administrations and academic programs. As a result, administrators sometimes do not appreciate the effects their decisions will have across other parts of the institution.
Today, positions that previously would have been held by faculty members (such as dean of students or dean of freshmen) are held by student affairs professionals. And hundreds of new positions have been created under the supervision of vice presidents for academic affairs, admissions, business affairs, development, and student affairs. For example, the February 1, 2008, “Careers” section of the Chronicle of Higher Education lists advertisements for vice chancellor of student success; study abroad director; associate director for experiential learning; director of financial aid; director of counseling services; assistant director of admissions, communications, and special events; chief information officer; assistant vice president for marketing and public relations; and many other specialized administrative positions. Under the umbrella of athletics alone, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) 2006–07 Administrative Compensation Survey lists associate and assistant director jobs in finance and business, operations, external affairs, development, academic affairs, and compliance.
Some of the increasing demand for specialization among higher education administrators represents increased reporting requirements related to crime on campus, environmental safety standards, learning outcomes, accreditation, and nondiscrimination in employment. Another factor driving the movement toward specialization is the increasing importance of technology for research, teaching, and managing overall university operations. The CUPA-HR survey report on the salaries of mid-level managers includes the positions of Webmaster, television station manager, systems programmer, database administration manager, information systems security analyst, and e-mail administrator. 5To the degree that the movement toward specialization in higher education administration represents a redistribution of work formerly performed by faculty, it also represents a diminished role for faculty in shared governance of the institution.
Shifts in Staffing
Data collected through the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System provide a detailed picture of changes in staffing priorities between 1976 and 2005, a period that saw student enrollment increase by 60 percent. The total growth in higher education personnel during this period was slightly larger than the growth in enrollment, at 84 percent. But as figure 3 illustrates, the aggregate growth in higher education employment disguises enormous differences in growth rates across different categories of the higher education workforce. Full-time, nonfaculty professional staff grew at the highest rate—281 percent between 1976 and 2005. This category includes many of the newly created positions in higher education referred to above. Although the ranks of full-time administrators in higher education grew less rapidly, their numbers doubled between 1976 and 2005.
The one exception to the tremendous growth rates in nonfaculty positions is the 20 percent growth in the number of full-time nonprofessional staff. This disproportionately small growth rate, well below the rate of enrollment growth, likely reflects an increased outsourcing of work in areas such as food services and maintenance of the grounds and physical plant.
Surprisingly, and unfortunately, the second and third largest growth rates in higher education personnel are in the categories of full- and part-time non-tenure-track faculty—both of which increased by over 200 percent. These two categories comprise the contingent faculty. Contingent faculty are ostensibly hired to provide universities with a flexible labor pool that can be expanded or reduced when enrollments in particular programs fluctuate, but the enormous growth in contingent faculty relative to full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty and relative to the growth in student enrollments is far greater than might be justified by an argument for flexibility. Other factors are driving this trend.
Increasingly, it appears that preferences for hiring contingent faculty stem from the fact that colleges and universities can hire them to teach many of the same courses that tenure-track faculty teach—at substantially lower pay rates. For example, based on the rates of pay for part-time faculty calculated in the 2005–06 edition of this annual report, and assuming a standard teaching load, a typical master’s degree university could have hired eight part-time faculty (each teaching three courses a year) for approximately the same pay that one fulltime assistant professor would earn. Although hiring eight part-time faculty members to teach specific classes would be less expensive, in the process the university would lose the capacity for advancing knowledge and contributing to the longterm development of curriculum that full-time tenure-track faculty bring. Because most part-time faculty do not have sufficient institutional support, they are less able and less likely to engage in research and perform administrative tasks necessary to keep academic departments functioning.
Both categories of contingent faculty also lack job security. Their appointments typically are renewable on a semester-to-semester or annual basis. Appointments can be allowed to expire at the end of the semester for any (nondiscriminatory) reason, or for no reason at all. Opportunities for appeal in cases of nonrenewal often do not exist. Because faculty members hired into these tenuous positions can be reluctant to explore controversial topics in their teaching or research, the increased use of contingent faculty in higher education represents a real threat to academic freedom.
Contingent faculty also generally do not have opportunity to participate fully in the activities of shared governance. Part-time faculty members may hold two or more positions at different colleges and universities and teach five or more courses a semester. Time for scholarship is rare and “free” time for the work of shared governance is rarer still. Likewise, without the protections of academic freedom and tenure, contingent faculty have substantially more to lose when they criticize the means their institutions use to carry out their educational missions. In this sense, the more than 200 percent increase in the number of contingent faculty on the payrolls represents a deprofessionalization of the faculty role in higher education.
In sharp contrast to the dramatic growth in employment of contingent faculty members and full-time nonfaculty professionals, the number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty grew by only 17 percent over the last three decades. And data from the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty on hours worked by full-time faculty show that the average workweek actually lengthened slightly, from 52.7 to 53.4 hours, between 1987 and 2003. The explosive growth in the number of part-time faculty members obviously has not reduced the workload for full-time faculty.
Adding new services that enhance the educational experience the institution provides can be desirable. But if these functions are not performed by faculty whose academic freedom is guaranteed by tenure, are these additional services integrated into the teaching and research mission? Or do they reflect an increasingly corporate college and university enterprise giving priority to “consumer satisfaction” over real education?
If those of us who are in a position to do so are to use our tenured positions to reassert the role of faculty in shared governance, we must ask ourselves whether we really do want change—or are we content to cede the tasks of administration to specialists at the cost of losing our role in shared governance? As Mary Burgan has argued in Whatever Happened to the Faculty? tenured faculty members may have been complicit in weakening the role of faculty in shared governance by choosing to spend more time doing what we enjoy (teaching and research) and less time doing what we find onerous (administration). If this is the case, we must reexamine our own priorities at the same time that we ask our institutions to change theirs.
The point of raising questions about priorities is not to denigrate the work of certain individuals or groups or to pit them against one another. Salaries and staffing are matters of institutional priorities, and the questions we are asking are about how those priorities are determined. Are changes in employment patterns the result of collaborative decision making involving faculty, staff, administrators, and governing boards? Why is “the market” employed as a rationale for skyrocketing salaries for some individuals, when the same “market factors” supposedly dictate extreme measures to reduce the cost of employing faculty? What do spending decisions—a very concrete demonstration of priorities—say about support for the core higher education missions of teaching, research, and service to the community? We have suggested some answers in this report and encourage all with an interest in higher education to follow up with questions about the priorities of their own institutions.
The production of this report was not a solo effort. Faculty compensation data were collected, compiled, and tabulated by the AAUP research office. In addition to writing the opening section of this report, John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy, compiled much of the data for comparisons of faculty and football coaches’ salaries and of faculty and administration salaries as well as the data on staffing changes in higher education. His attention to detail, marathon work sessions, and keen sense for how best to articulate an argument made this report possible. Doug Kinsella, research associate, provided invaluable aid in the collection of the faculty salary data. We also extend our sincerest gratitude to the hundreds of institutional representatives who take the time each year to respond to our annual survey. Many thanks to Gerry Randall and Cheryl Hill of Hampden-Sydney College for their assistance in obtaining other data used in the preparation of this report. Current members of the AAUP’s Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession provided numerous helpful comments and suggestions during the many months that it takes to produce this annual report. This last year, George Lang, a committee member and one of the most loyal, generous, and committed defenders of the faculty’s role in shared governance, passed away. We miss him and remain grateful for all of his contributions to the work of the AAUP. Committee members are Steve London (Political Science), Brooklyn College, City University of New York; Ann Mari May (Economics), University of Nebraska–Lincoln; James Monks (Economics), University of Richmond; Ronald L. Oaxaca (Economics), University of Arizona; Richard Romano (Economics), Broome Community College, State University of New York; and Ronald G. Ehrenberg (Labor Economics), Cornell University, consultant and former chair.
--Saranna Thornton, chair, Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession
1. In 2007, the NCAA began to refer to this division as the “Football Bowl Subdivision.” Because the former designation is more familiar, however, this report continues to refer to the division as “Division I-A.”
2. Steve Wieberg and Jodi Upton, “The Money Game,” USA Today, December 5, 2007. USA Today was not able to obtain contracts for all 120 coaches. Additionally, given questions regarding the accuracy of the reported compensation for Pennsylvania State University coach Joe Paterno, Penn State is excluded from this data analysis. Universities not belonging to an athletic conference are also excluded.
3. National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2002–03 NCAA Revenues and Expenses of Divisions I and II Intercollegiate Athletics Programs (Indianapolis: National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2005).
4. Compensation of Presidents of Private Institutions (Chronicle of Higher Education database). Also see “Presidential Pay Is Increasing Fastest at the Largest Institutions,”Chronicle of Higher Education, November 16, 2007.
5. Audrey Williams June, “Median Salaries of Midlevel Administrative Workers by Job Category and Type of Institution, 2005–6,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 17, 2006.