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Faculty Salaries Flat as Institutions Tighten Belts

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) today released its annual faculty compensation report for 2009-10, and it had little good news for American academics or those hoping to join their ranks. AAUP’s findings show the recession is cutting deep into campus finances at both public or private institutions, from community colleges to doctoral degree-granting universities.

Faculty members don’t take a vow of poverty, and they aren’t starving. Average annual salaries range from $59,400 at schools giving associate degrees to $91,060 for faculty at institutions granting doctoral degrees. But this year, the average salary increase amounted to just 1.2%, which didn’t approach the rate of inflation: 2.1% as of February 2010.

Even the meager 1.2% average increase may be an overstatement. The 1200 campuses taking part in the survey reported their contracted salaries, not what faculty members were actually paid. Left out of the calculations were unpaid furloughs imposed on public institutions in some states (including Arizona and Georgia). Also, the survey covered full-time faculty only, not part-time or adjunct faculty who usually are paid less.

Even using the reported numbers, nearly a third (32%) of the reporting institutions cut faculty salaries from last year. Slightly more (35%) either held salaries at the same level as last year or granted increases less than the rate of inflation. As a result, faculty salaries at two-thirds (67%) of the institutions failed to keep up with the cost of living.  Four-year colleges and associate-degree granting schools were the hardest hit; there, about four in 10 schools cut salaries compared to about a quarter of universities granting masters, professional, or doctoral degrees.

The survey found wide differences between salaries paid to men and women on college and university faculties. Male faculty members received an average of $87,206, compared to $70,600 for their female counterparts. Higher salaries for men were found at all levels of degree-granting institutions and at all faculty ranks, from full professor to instructor.

Other forms of compensation were also cut, the survey showed.  Some 13% of surveyed institutions, including one-fifth of colleges giving bachelors degrees, cut employer contributions to faculty members’ retirement accounts.

AAUP’s report highlighted the key role benefits pay in the compensation packages of faculty members. Even with the cuts in employer contributions, schools paid the equivalent of about 10% of their faculty’s salaries into retirement accounts.  In another retirement expense — one required by law — institutions paid 5-7% of faculty salaries for Social Security. Amounts paid for medical/dental insurance ranged from 18% of salaries at associate degree-granting colleges to 10% at doctoral degree institutions. The AAUP report also gave anecdotal evidence of other benefit cuts, notably sabbatical leave and meeting attendance.

Science Careers reviewed the grim academic job market earlier this year and about a year ago. Our most recent monthly compilation of data from The Conference Board on posted job ads found indications of an improving job market, with one exception — jobs for education, training, and library staff (at all levels), where the number of unemployed job-seekers exceeded the number posted opportunities by more than 5 to 1.