Losing Focus: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2013-14

Download the report as a .pdf

See Also:

List of Tables and Figures
Explanation of Statistical Data
Online-only supplement: The Employment Status of Instructional Staff Members in Higher Education, Fall 2011

Appendices to the Report
The appendices to this report contain salary listings for individual institutions.

Corrections to the 2014 report, published in The Bulletin of the AAUP can be found here

In the decades following World War II, higher education in the United States has evolved from a narrow concern for a few scholars into an institution that affects all aspects of our society. Nearly every American has either attended college or has a friend or a family member who has enrolled, and many people also follow college sports or have a college or university in their communities. In short, higher education is a central social institution in contemporary America.

And yet, even as colleges and universities have become the focus of increased attention from the general public and policy makers alike, these institutions themselves seem to have lost their focus on a mission of preparing an informed citizenry for participation in democracy and expanding knowledge for the benefit of all. Without a doubt, higher education still provides a transformative experience for the millions of individuals who take part in its many activities. Behind the scenes, however, American higher education is changing in ways that detract from its potential to enhance the common good. This report will endeavor to wipe away some of the clouds obscuring a clear focus on the vital core mission of higher education.

As is traditional in this annual report, we begin with an overview of full-time faculty compensation. For those who are interested, the report is supplemented with numerous detailed tables covering all aspects of pay, benefits, and employment status for full-time faculty members. Following the introductory section, we examine trends in the employment of administrators and in spending on administrative positions of various kinds. Administrative spending is a perennial topic, and the data reviewed here indicate that it deserves continuing attention, especially when we contrast it with declining expenditures on instruction. The final section analyzes another frequent concern of this report, the “irrational exuberance” (to borrow an apt phrase from another context) surrounding intercollegiate athletics. When we tally up the score on the economics of college sports, we find it hard to avoid the conclusion that current practices are harming our academic programs.

We offer this report as a step toward helping all of us who are dedicated to academic freedom and high-quality higher education to regain our focus.

Is This Progress?

We begin by analyzing the results of the current year’s survey of full-time faculty salaries. The AAUP Research Office collects data from college and university administrative offices across the country for presentation in two basic formats. The appendices included with this report provide institution-specific average figures on full-time faculty salary by rank and gender; compensation (the sum of salaries and the institution’s expenditure on benefits) by rank; and the average salary increase for continuing faculty members, also by rank. The aggregate survey report tables that follow the article that supplements this year’s report provide context for the interpretation of the institution-specific results, and this introductory section provides an overview of those aggregate tables.

Survey report table 1 documents the change in full-time faculty salaries this academic year when compared to last year in two ways: through a calculation of the change in the average salary, by rank and type of institution, for those colleges and universities that provided data both this year and last, and through a tabulation of average changes in the salary faculty members earned when they were employed full time at the same institution in both years. The two measures are calculated differently and tell us different things about faculty salaries, so we review the results for each in turn.

The left side of table 1 provides the percentage change in average salary, which is a measure of the increase in the salary paid for a given faculty position rather than in the earnings of individual faculty members. The bottom row of the table indicates that the average salary for a full-time faculty member increased by 2.2 percent this year at those institutions that responded to the AAUP survey for the last two years. The table provides percentage change in the figures for the four upper faculty ranks at each type of institution surveyed and illustrates the variation among the different institutional categories and faculty ranks. As has been the pattern for a number of years, the increase at private-independent institutions overall was higher than that at public institutions, due almost entirely to the disparity in the salary change in doctoral universities for those two sectors. (The 2012–13 edition of this report analyzed the public-private differential in greater depth.) Average salaries at community colleges (although limited to public associate’s degree colleges that assign faculty ranks) rose slightly more than did salaries at other public institutions, but this reflects a rebound from overall decreases in average salary recorded in the same table last year.

The right side of table 1 presents a measure of changing salaries that is unique to the AAUP survey: the average change in salary paid to a continuing faculty member who has remained in his or her position at the same institution from the previous year. The percentage increases reflected in the table could be thought of as the “average raise” an individual faculty member received this year, and those figures include increases from all sources: promotions, merit raises, and across-the-board salary adjustments. In the aggregate table, all the figures are positive this year, meaning that salaries rose on average—but that is certainly not the case at every institution. The “bottom-line” overall average increase for continuing faculty members this year was 3.4 percent, and the pattern by type of institution was similar to that observed in average salaries. The continuing faculty figure is almost always higher than the overall increase in average salary, since the former includes only faculty members who have added a year of experience. The broader figures from the left side of the table reflect the continuous churning of faculty members through positions, as senior faculty members depart and are most often replaced by faculty members at lower salaries, keeping the overall averages down.

To understand what these percentage increases in table 1 mean, it’s useful to put them in historical context by reviewing several years of results and to compare the average increases in salary with the inflation rate of prices in the economy as a whole. Table A provides the information needed to do both: it gives the basic results going back more than four decades, providing nominal (actual dollar) and real (inflation-adjusted) changes from one year to the next.

The top half of table A documents the historical trend for the increase in average salary for all faculty members, combining the results from all types of institutions and summarizing them by rank. By this measure, at least in nominal terms, the increases in average salary this year are better than they have been for several years. Lest we get overly excited, however, the right side of the table provides an important corrective by factoring in inflation. Although the rate of December-to-December inflation this year was relatively low, the overall increase in average salary beat the rise in the cost of living by less than 1 percentage point. Thus, although the inflation-adjusted result this year is positive where it has been negative or zero in the recent past, in fact it represents a continuation of the long period of stagnation in average full-time faculty salaries.

For continuing faculty members, the news summarized in the lower half of the table is only slightly more encouraging, even after adjusting for the relatively low rate of inflation. The 3.4 percent overall average increase is still well below the average for the period from 1995–96 to the beginning of the most recent recession. After adjusting for inflation (right side of the table), the 1.9 percent average real increase for continuing faculty members this year matches the average rate from the decade prior to the recession. Further detail about the change in salary is found in survey report tables 2 and 3. Table 2 provides a distribution of institutions recording various levels of percentage change in average salaries, whereas table 3 describes the range in average salary changes for continuing faculty members across the different institutional types.

Additional survey report tables provide multiple ways of looking at the data collected this year. Table 4 documents average salary and average compensation by faculty rank and type of institution. Table 5 presents the salary breakout for men and women, and tables 6 and 7 display the averages by region. Table 8 uses data on faculty members at various annual salary levels to describe the overall distribution of individual salaries by rank and institutional category. Tables 9a and 9b show the distribution of institutional averages for salary and compensation, respectively; this distribution is the basis for the institutional quintile ratings listed in the appendices. Table 10 explores the rate of institutional expenditures on various benefit items, table 11 gives the distribution of faculty members by tenure status, and table 12 shows the distribution by gender. Table 13 pulls together a number of broad summary measures from the preceding tables, and table 14 tabulates the response rate of institutions that provided data. Finally, survey report table 15 provides average salary for presidents and a comparison with the salary for full professors.

Do We Need More Administrators?

Faculty members have long viewed the growth in the number and salaries of college and university administrators with a strong sense of suspicion. The AAUP devoted an entire issue of Academe to the topic of “Administrative Bloat” more than twenty years ago (November–December 1991). The author of the lead article was Barbara R. Bergmann, distinguished professor of economics at American University and then president of the AAUP. She described the situation with a flourish:

Undetected, unprotested, and unchecked, the excessive growth of administrative expenditures has done a lot of damage to life and learning on our campuses. On each campus that suffers from this disease, and most apparently do, millions of dollars have been swallowed up. Huge amounts have been devoted to funding administrative positions that a few years ago would have been thought unnecessary.

If it were just a matter of the money wasted, that would be bad enough. But the bloating of college administrations over the past decades has made administrative performance worse rather than better. It has bogged us down in reels of time-consuming and despair-creating red tape. It has fostered delusions of grandeur among some of the administrative higher-ups, whose egos have grown along with the size of the staffs under their supervision.

Two decades later, how has the situation changed?

Figure 1 provides a comparison of the rate of increase in the number of employees of various categories over a thirty-fiveyear span, using data from the US Department of Education’s biennial census of institutional employees that forms part of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The figure highlights two broad categories of growth: contingent academic appointments, about which we have had much to say in our annual report in recent years, and nonfaculty positions. By far the largest rate of growth, 369 percent, has been in full-time nonfaculty professional positions, a category that includes buyers and purchasing agents; human resources, training, and labor relations specialists; management analysts; loan counselors; lawyers; and other nonacademic workers.

The three categories of contingent academic appointments in these data have also shown rapid growth over this period: the number of part-time faculty members grew by 286 percent, more than tripling, while full-time non-tenure-track faculty ranks swelled by 259 percent. The number of graduate student employees also more than doubled, increasing by 123 percent. The growth in full-time senior administrative positions (formally labeled “executive, administrative, and managerial” in the IPEDS survey) was less rapid than the growth in contingent faculty positions at 141 percent. But this rate represents more than a doubling in the number of people at the top of the organizational hierarchy.

By contrast, you may need your reading glasses to find the last two bars in the chart, which represent full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty appointments (23 percent growth) and full-time “nonprofessional” positions (19 percent growth), respectively. Although the number of tenure-line faculty members did increase during this period, the growth was dwarfed by the rise in contingent academic positions, leading to the inversion of the academic employment picture we documented in last year’s report.1 And the tremendous growth of executive and nonacademic professional positions means that the 1991 discussion of “administrative bloat” is a matter for ongoing concern more than two decades later. By contrast, the slow growth in the number of full-time “nonprofessional” employees likely represents continued outsourcing of various service and maintenance functions.

Another way of looking at the growth in senior administrators is to tabulate the specific titles for those positions. For this purpose we use reports covering thirty-five years of the Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey carried out by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).2 The 1978–79 version of this report provided median salaries for eighty-one senior administrative titles, thirty-one of which were deans of various academic colleges or divisions. Fifteen years later, in 1993–94, the report counted 171 administrative positions, thirty-three of which were academic deans. (It should be noted that the CUPA-HR survey does not collect data for associate or assistant deans.) The count of titles in the 2003–04 administrative survey was similar, at 173 total, and still included thirty-three deans. But by this year the survey had expanded again, to 191 senior administrative titles, fortyone of them academic deans. Thus, over the course of thirty-five years the number of senior administrative titles grew by 136 percent, while the proportion of those titles belonging to academic deans decreased from 38 percent to 21 percent. Admittedly, this is a crude measure, but it seems indicative of the trends documented in figure 1 and reflects the experiences reported by faculty members across the country.

The AAUP is not the only organization calling attention to the continued rapid growth in administrative positions. The most recent report from the Delta Cost Project (now based at the American Institutes for Research) also found the number of administrative employees growing more rapidly than the number of faculty members: “Growing numbers of administrative positions (executive and professional) and changes in faculty composition represent long-standing trends. The shifting balance among these positions has played out steadily over time in favor of administrators, and it is unclear when a tipping point may be near. Whether this administrative growth constitutes unnecessary ‘bloat’ or is justified as part of the complexities involved in running a modern-day university remains up for debate.”3

There is no question that higher education enrollments continue to rise, institutions are faced with increased reporting and regulatory burdens, and students come to college from more diverse academic and cultural backgrounds than ever before. But the massively disproportionate growth in the number of administrative employees, coupled with the continuing shift to an increasingly precarious corps of mostly temporary, underpaid, and insufficiently supported instructors, represents a real threat to the quality of our academic programs.

Spending Priorities

More significant even than the increase in the number of employees is the shift in spending that has occurred as a consequence of the expansion of administrative positions. As this report has argued for many years, the academic mission of teaching and research should be at the core of what colleges do, and decisions about spending should reflect a focus on this core mission. This section presents an analysis of several trends in institutional expenditures, contrasting spending on administration with spending on instruction and the rising salaries of senior administrators with the relatively stagnant salaries of full-time faculty members.

For several years the Delta Cost Project has provided detailed analysis of federal data on the finances of colleges and universities. Table B presents one aspect of the analysis of spending patterns over the decade from 2000 to 2010, drawing on a report issued in 2012. The table contrasts the change in institutional expenditures on instruction with those on research, student services, and “institutional support” (which includes overhead costs such as general administrative services, executive management, and legal and fiscal operations). The authors of the report from which this table is drawn summarize the trends in spending as follows: “Even though public and private four-year institutions have, on average, made new investments in instruction, student services, and overhead since the beginning of the decade, the relative weight of these investments has gradually shifted. Over most of the decade, the instruction share of [education and related] spending declined, on average, across institutions.”4

As the authors note, some institutions shifted spending more to student services, and some more to overhead— although the table makes it evident that public community colleges actually reduced spending on instruction, student services, and overhead, with the reduction in spending on instruction the largest of the three.

Although this analysis substantiates the perception of many faculty members that institutional spending continues to be shifted away from the core academic mission, the broad categories used in federal data collection and analyzed by the Delta Cost Project are somewhat difficult to relate to what is actually happening on campuses across the country. More useful for this purpose are comparisons of salaries of administrators holding various titles with those of full-time faculty members, as depicted in figure 2.

Figure 2 compares thirty-five years of data on administrative salaries from the CUPA-HR Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey cited above with faculty salary data collected by the AAUP. It would have been preferable to disaggregate the analysis into more specific institutional categories, but that level of data on administrative salaries was not available. In the data from public institutions, the increases in median salary paid to four senior administrative positions were at least 39 percent after controlling for inflation, with the increase in presidential (“chief executive officer” in the parlance of the report) salary much greater at 75 percent. By contrast, and probably not surprising to regular readers of this report, the cumulative increases in mean salary for full-time faculty members were mostly less than half as great. The same pattern held in the private-independent sector, although the rates of increase for all positions there were larger. Median presidential salary jumped 171 percent above the rate of inflation, and the other three administrative salaries increased at least 97 percent, while the uptick in mean salaries for full-time faculty members reached only 50 percent or less.

But what of the more recent period, especially during the painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession in the national economy? Surely governing boards and senior administrators will have recognized the incongruity of continuing to raise administrative salaries for the very few during a period characterized by academic program closures and salary and hiring freezes or even layoffs for many campus employees? As the data in table C tell us, that unfortunately is not the case.

Table C presents the average change in salary from 2007–08 to 2013–14, the period of the recession and its aftermath, for three senior administrative positions and three full-time faculty ranks. The table is drawn from data collected as part of the AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey, which allows us to make a more direct comparison of changes in compensation for different positions on individual campuses. It includes only institutions that supplied data for at least one administrative position and one faculty rank in both years, and calculates the change in salary (accounting for inflation) for each institution and position individually before combining them to produce the averages by category shown in the table. This is different from the approach used to produce figure 2, which compares the average salary for a particular job title at two different points in time.

This more specific analysis also documents the growing gap between salaries paid to senior administrators and those paid to full-time faculty members. As we’ve already observed, faculty salaries have been generally stagnant during the last six years, and the table indicates that faculty salaries in several institutional categories have actually declined when adjusted for inflation. The same is not true for senior administrative salaries. As the longer-term analysis in figure 2 also shows, salaries for presidents in recent years have generally increased more rapidly than those of other administrators, reflecting greater concentration of authority in a single “CEO.” (Table C indicates that salaries for chief academic officers at doctoral and public master’s universities have risen more rapidly than those of presidents in recent years.) But across all institutional categories, the average increases in administrative salaries are greater—in most cases, much greater—than those for full-time faculty members. The contrast is especially sharp at the private master’s degree universities, with senior administrators receiving double-digit increases while average faculty salaries stagnate or decline. But that is not the only institutional category where table C documents this pattern.

Some commentators have argued that the outsized and rapidly rising salaries paid to many presidents, especially, have only a trivial impact on institutional budgets that may amount to hundreds of millions (or even billions) of dollars annually. While that may be true from an accounting standpoint, the salaries paid to senior administrators are highly symbolic. As we have argued previously, they serve as a concrete indication of the priorities accorded to the various components of the institution by its governing board and campus leadership. Disproportionate salary increases at the top also reflect the abandonment of centuries-old models of shared campus governance, which have increasingly been replaced by more corporate managerial approaches that emphasize the “bottom line.”

The increase in spending on administrative functions, coupled with a decline in state funding relative to institutional operating expenses, is clearly connected to the continuing increases in tuition prices on many campuses. As we have noted in this report on several occasions in recent years, faculty pay is not driving up tuition costs. In fact, the stagnant salaries paid to full-time faculty members combined with the increasing use of lower-paid part-time and non-tenure-track faculty appointments have been reflected in the lowered relative spending on instruction documented earlier in this section. But don’t just take our word for it. The most recent report from the Delta Cost Project concluded that “faculty salaries were not the leading cause of rising college tuitions during the past decade. Increased benefits costs, nonfaculty positions added elsewhere on campus, declines in state and institutional subsidies, and other factors all played a role.”5

Over the course of the last four decades, then, the expansion of administrative personnel and the growth in spending on administration have pulled colleges and universities away from their core mission of educating students and expanding knowledge. The trend decried by Barbara Bergmann in 1991 has not abated. Increasingly outrageous salaries for a few senior administrators send a signal to faculty, staff, and students alike that their college or university is not the engine of expanding opportunity and enlightenment they may have thought it was.

Further, and in some cases even more egregious, evidence that our higher education institutions are losing focus on the academic mission comes from a review of spending on athletics.

Academic Mission and Athletic Spending

Colleges and universities often have lofty academic mission statements. But the budgets more clearly demonstrate where institutional priorities lie. Is there an athletics “arms race” under way?

Concerns regarding the proper role of athletics in the university are not new. The University of Chicago was a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, competed in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and even made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” round of the men’s national basketball championship in 1935. But in 1939 the university’s president, Robert Maynard Hutchins, decided to deemphasize athletics and place greater emphasis on academics. Can a university be successful if it doesn’t have a nationally ranked athletic team? Chicago is certainly one strong example. It now competes in Division III athletics but counts eighty-nine Nobel Prize winners who are or were faculty members or students.6

To assess whether institutional spending decisions are congruent with their stated mission of education, public service, and research, table D compares data on athletics expenditures reported by colleges and universities to the US Department of Education under the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act with IPEDS data published in the Digest of Education Statistics. The table allows us to examine changes in real (inflation-adjusted) spending per student and per athlete between 2003–04 and 2010–11.7 In order to filter out the effects of changing enrollments or changing numbers of student-athletes on spending, for academic-related activities of the institutions we use spending per full-time equivalent (FTE) student and for the athletics-related activities we use spending per student-athlete.

In all three institutional categories, total expenditures rose at a faster pace than inflation, resulting in a positive percentage change figure in the table. The increases in total spending per student at public four-year and two-year institutions were lower in part because of cutbacks in state appropriations to higher education during this period. The next three columns in the table examine percentage changes in spending on the three primary functions of a college or university: instruction, research, and public service.8

Community colleges experienced the sharpest cutbacks in all three core categories, cutting spending on instruction by 8.5 percent and on public service by 21.4 percent. They also cut back on academic support by 5.7 percent. Public four-year colleges and universities were able to avoid cuts in instruction, but spending on both research and public service decreased during this period. Finally, private four-year institutions were on average able to avoid reductions in spending on instruction and research, but partially at the expense of an almost 18 percent cut in public service spending.

One area of higher education institutional spending that has appeared immune to efforts to cut costs is athletics. Spending rose most rapidly at community colleges, some of which have been adding extracurricular activities as a way to attract more students. But for all three institutional categories the increases in athletics spending, adjusted for inflation, have been spectacular. The expenditure changes in table D clearly show a bias toward more spending on athletics and less spending on the core mission of higher education.

The table doesn’t account for the fact that institutional categorization doesn’t neatly align with membership in the NCAA’s three divisions. Division I (D1) includes just under 350 colleges and universities.9 It is characterized by the highest level of competition and the largest number of athletic scholarships allowed. Division I is split into three subdivisions based on participation in men’s football. The Football Bowl Subdivision (D1-A) includes roughly 120 schools that vie for spots in the major postseason bowl games.10 The Football Championship Subdivision (D1-AA) includes approximately the same number of institutions, which play football at a slightly less competitive level and participate in less prestigious bowl games during the postseason. The third subdivision (D1-AAA) includes universities that compete in D1 but don’t have football teams (for example, DePaul University, Fairfield University, and George Mason University). In the NCAA’s Division II (D2), universities grant athletic scholarships but the numbers allowed are smaller. This division also imposes different regulations on recruiting athletes and the length of athletic seasons. D2 includes 291 colleges and universities. In Division III (D3) students are not offered athletic scholarships, their practice and competition seasons are shorter, and there are bans on “redshirting,” the practice of holding first-year athletes out of competition to provide them with an additional year of competitive eligibility. There are 439 colleges and universities that are members of D3.

We next look at the recent trend in spending on athletics for colleges and universities broken out by the division in which they compete. Given the highly competitive nature of D1 sports, one might expect to see the largest increases in athletics spending per student-athlete at D1-A universities. As figure 3 shows, however, that isn’t so. Between the 2003–04 and 2011–12 academic years, the largest percentage increase in inflation-adjusted median spending per student-athlete was at D3 institutions without football teams, where athletics spending rose by 112 percent beyond inflation during a seven-year period that encompassed the Great Recession. Indeed, spending in D3 with football also grew more quickly than in the most competitive D1-A division. Part of the explanation for this counterintuitive finding is the increased emphasis being placed on athletics in D3 institutions as a mechanism to boost enrollments. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 7.7 million boys and girls played high school sports in 2012–13.11 Student-athletes who don’t have the ability to earn a scholarship in D1 or D2 institutions but want and can afford to continue playing their sport are prime targets for D3 college admissions officers and coaches.

Figure 4 compares increases in overall undergraduate enrollment by institutional type. Although it isn’t possible to map NCAA divisions precisely onto the institutional divisions in the chart, the majority of D3 colleges and universities are private four-year colleges. As figure 4 shows, the increase in the number of student-athletes was slightly lower than the increase in undergraduate enrollment at public colleges and universities. But at private four-year institutions the number of student-athletes on campus increased by nearly 22 percent over this period, much faster than the rate of increase in the total undergraduate population. The combined data from figures 3 and 4 show us that at D3 colleges and universities total athletics spending has increased in part because those institutions are spending more per athlete as well as increasing the number of student-athletes on their campuses.

It has been argued that athletic spending doesn’t take funding away from academics because “revenue-generating” sports such as football and men’s basketball bring in sufficient funds to finance themselves along with other sports teams. The evidence, however, shows this assertion to be untrue.

The NCAA collects annual data on revenues and expenses of athletics programs from its member institutions.12 In the reports for 2012, of the more than one thousand college and university members of the NCAA, only twenty-three institutions reported that their athletic programs ran a surplus, with revenues greater than expenses. Those twenty-three institutions were all in D1-A. The NCAA includes the following revenue sources in its reporting: payments for the rights to broadcast games through television, radio, or the Internet; contributions from individual and corporate donors; program and novelty sales; parking; sponsorships; ticket sales; sports-camp revenues; endowment and investment income; NCAA conference distributions; and direct institutional support. Even when all these sources of revenue are included, the NCAA reports that the median institutional subsidy in 2012 accounted for 27.5 percent of the athletics program budget in D1-A, 73.0 percent in D1-AA, and 81.7 percent in D1-AAA.13

It has also been claimed that athletics spending pays off for colleges and universities because sports provide “free” advertising every time a game is broadcast or covered by the media. But this “advertising” is not free—far from it! During academic year 2011–12, public two-year colleges spent $467 million on athletics. Private four-year institutions spent $5.002 billion, and public four-year colleges and universities spent $8.337 billion.14

The 2012 Super Bowl was viewed by more than 111 million people (not including those who watched in public venues, such as sports bars) across a broad demographic based on age, gender, and income level.15 As the most-watched television event in the United States, the Super Bowl commands the highest advertising fees. The average price charged by the NBC television network for a thirty-second commercial in 2012 was $3.5 million.16 For the $13.8 billion they spent on athletics in 2011–12, the 2,055 colleges and universities could have purchased 1,972 minutes of Super Bowl–priced commercial advertising time to tell their stories about how they educate their students. Of course, the Super Bowl is not the only potential advertising opportunity: there are a large number of high-profile events throughout the year in which colleges could advertise at lesser expense to prospective students and parents. Consider other widely viewed events such as the MTV Music Video Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Oscars, the baseball World Series, or the Olympics. To be clear, the point of this calculation is not to encourage colleges and universities to increase their commercial advertising budgets. The point is that athletics can provide tremendous opportunities for student-athletes to learn and grow as individuals, but as commercial advertising for colleges and universities, they are not an efficient use of funds.

As we have documented in recent editions of this report, full-time faculty salaries have generally been stagnant for the last several years. We examined above how changes in faculty pay have compared to salary increases for senior administrators. Here we compare changes in median compensation for full professors to those for head coaches of men’s athletic teams in Division I, in a sampling of both “revenue-generating” and non-revenue-generating sports. The period covered spans 2005–06 to 2011–12, which includes the recession during which many faculty members were told that budgets were tight and raises were unavailable.

As figure 5 illustrates, by far the largest increases in compensation during this time period went to coaches—and not only in “major” sports. The median D1-A men’s basketball coach saw his pay increase by more than 100 percent, after inflation. D1-A football coaches scored slightly less, with a median compensation increase of 93 percent. But even coaches in so-called “minor sports” such as cross country, track, golf, soccer, and tennis racked up increases in their compensation packages that far exceeded those earned by full professors across all four institutional types. The lowest-scoring coaches, in cross country and track at D1-AA universities, saw their real compensation increase by 9 percent over these six years, which is more than double the 4 percent increase earned by the median full professors at doctoral universities. In contrast to the coaches, full professors at associate’s degree colleges actually experienced a loss in their compensation of 5 percent between 2005–06 and 2011–12.

Some have argued that reported head coach salaries, particularly in revenue-generating sports, overstate the financial impact of those expenditures on college and university budgets because private foundations or other sources of restricted donations are used to pay some or all of the head coach’s compensation. Indeed, in its annual report on the pay of head football coaches in D1-A, USA Today notes that the category of “school pay” includes base salary as well as income paid by other sources, such as a foundation, and payments in return for use of specific brands of shoes or apparel, media appearances, and personal appearances. However, school pay is guaranteed by the university employer, so the university is obligated to make up the difference if there are shortfalls in these third-party payments. For almost all D1-A head football coaches, “other pay” (anything not guaranteed by the university) makes up a tiny proportion of their total salary. Of the 124 coaches listed in the USA Today 2013 salary report, only twenty-eight received any “other pay.” And for all but three of these coaches, other pay accounted for less than 4 percent of their school pay.17

Even in cases where a head coach in a revenue-generating sport is paid out of an endowed fund, multiple assistant coaches may receive six-figure salaries paid out of general operating funds. For example, in its 2013 D1-A football coach salary study based on complete salary data for 942 assistant coaches, USA Today reported that the highest-paid assistant coach was Chad Morris at Clemson University ($1,309,650) and that fifty-three other assistant coaches received total pay of half a million dollars or more. The median salary of a D1-A football assistant coach was $180,000.18

Athletics and academics don’t have to be incompatible, but the trends documented here provide strong evidence that current institutional decision making places too great an emphasis on athletics, to the detriment of academics and student success. Seven of ten students are graduating with student debt averaging $29,400 per borrower.19 President Obama has called on states to make education a higher priority in their budgets and on colleges and universities to do their part to keep costs down. But the compensation of coaches in D1 institutions and spending per athlete in all the NCAA’s divisions have been increasing by double-digit rates, while instructional spending per student stays flat or even falls. We’ve reached the point where students, faculty members, parents, legislators, trustees, and alumni need to insist that college and university presidents refocus their institutions on their academic purposes.

Regaining Focus

The data and analysis presented in the preceding sections bear out the reports we hear all the time from colleagues on college and university campuses across the country. Increasingly, institutions of higher education have lost their focus on the academic activities at the core of their mission. Spending on administrative overhead continues to draw funding away from academic programs, and the proliferation of new administrative and support positions has continued unabated in the two decades since “administrative bloat” was brought into the higher education lexicon. Even more troubling, the pattern of substantial salary increases for a very few senior administrators noted in previous years continues while full-time faculty salaries stagnate; the overwhelming majority of our academic colleagues struggle to provide excellent instruction while mired in precarious contingent appointments; and staff colleagues face hiring and salary freezes, benefit cuts, and even layoffs. And it’s no news to any longtime observer of American higher education that the spending priority accorded to competitive athletics too easily diverts the focus of our institutions from teaching and learning to scandal and excess.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Those of us who teach and work with students and community organizations on a daily basis know that higher education still has the amazing power to transform student lives and help create solutions to the myriad challenges our society faces. But at the same time, too many decisions regarding the spending and employment priorities of our colleges and universities are carried out in secret by a few individuals, and that secrecy has clouded our collective focus. This report provides one resource that we hope will be useful in bringing some of those practices to light. But the only way to ensure that our institutions regain their focus on expanding knowledge for the benefit of all is to get involved, as active members in the AAUP and our other higher education communities and as citizens in a democratic society.


Unless otherwise noted, the full-time faculty compensation data presented in this report were collected by the AAUP Research Office directly from college and university administrative offices. We extend our gratitude to all the survey respondents who provided data in a timely fashion for analysis in this report. Samuel Dunietz, AAUP research associate, has been instrumental in ensuring that data collection and processing have functioned as smoothly as possible, given tight resources and difficult time constraints. Along with the hundreds of survey respondents who drew on his expert assistance in submitting accurate data, we salute Sam for his work on this project.


1. The employment trends graph included in the 2012–13 Report on the Economic Status of the Profession is supplemented by additional resources on the AAUP website at http://www.aaup.org/issues/contingent-faculty /resources-contingent-appointments. Back to text

2. This particular report focuses on senior positions; CUPA-HR has a separate “professionals” (formerly “midlevel administrative”) survey. In the early part of this period the organization was known as the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA), and prior to 2013 the report was called the Administrative Compensation SurveyBack to text

3. Donna M. Desrochers and Rita Kirshstein, Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education (Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research, 2014), 13. Back to text

4. Donna M. Desrochers and Rita J. Kirshstein, College Spending in a Turbulent Decade: Findings from the Delta Cost Project (Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research, 2012), 5. Back to text

5. Desrochers and Kirshstein, Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive?, 4. Back to text

6. “Nobel Laureates,” University of Chicago, accessed February 19, 2014, http://www.uchicago.edu/about /accolades/22/. Back to text

7. Although both tables B and D detail changes in categories of institutional spending, they are not directly comparable. They cover different time periods, in order to make the comparison with available data on athletic spending, and group the results into different institutional categories. Back to text

8. In the IPEDS Finance survey, public service is defined as “activities budgeted specifically for public service and for activities established primarily to provide noninstructional services beneficial to groups external to the institution.” Academic support is defined as “expenses for the support services that are an integral part of the institution’s primary missions of instruction, research, and public service.” Back to text

9. 2013–14 Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete (Indianapolis: NCAA Eligibility Center), 4. Back to text

10. Before the complete corporatization of college sports, these events were known simply as the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and so on. Now they are named after their corporate sponsors (for example, the AT&T Cotton Bowl or the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl). Back to text

11. 2012–13 High School Athletics Participation Survey (Indianapolis: National Federation of State High School Associations), 54, http://www.nfhs.org/content.aspx?id=3282. Back to text

12. Daniel L. Fulks, Revenues and Expenses 2004–2012: NCAA Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Programs Report (Indianapolis: NCAA, 2013), 27, table 3.5, 53, table 4.5, and 79, table 5.5; Daniel L. Fulks, Revenues and Expenses 2004–2012: NCAA Division II Intercollegiate Athletics Programs Report (Indianapolis: NCAA, 2013), 24, table 3.5, and 49, table 4.5; and Daniel L. Fulks, Revenues and Expenses 2004–2012: NCAA Division III Intercollegiate Athletics Programs Report (Indianapolis: NCAA, 2013). The Division III report documents only expenses, since there are apparently no revenues. Back to text

13. Fulks, Revenues and Expenses 2004–2012: NCAA Division I, 21, table 2.7. Back to text

14. “The Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool,” US Department of Education Equity in Athletics, 2011–12 data, http://ope.ed.gov/athletics/. Back to text

15. Lisa de Moraes, “Super Bowl XLVI: Biggest TV Audience Ever,” Washington Post, February 6, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/tv-column/post /super-bowl-xlvi-no-tv-ratings-record/2012/02/06 /gIQAVAD6tQ_blog.html. Back to text

16. “Cost of Average Super Bowl Commercial? $3.5M,” USA Today, January 3, 2012, http://usatoday30.usatoday .com/sports/football/nfl/story/2012-01-03super-bowl-ad /52360232/1. Back to text

17. USA Today Sports, NCAA Football Coaches Salaries Database, accessed February 25, 2014, http://www.usatoday .com/sports/college/salaries/ncaaf/coach/. Back to text

18. USA Today Sports, NCAA Football Assistant Coaches Salaries Database, accessed February 25, 2014, http://www .usatoday.com/sports/college/salaries/ncaaf/assistant/. Back to text

19. Matthew Reed and Debbie Cochrane, Student Debt and the Class of 2012 (Oakland, CA: The Institute for College Access and Success, 2013), 1. Back to text