Cornell’s average faculty salary for "full-professors" has increased yet again — rising 2.5 percent from last year, according to a report released earlier this month by the American Association of University Professors.
Salary increases at Cornell beat the national average of 1.7 percent, a figure that was below the inflation rate of three percent. While data from the AAUP shows that for the third consecutive year, professors nationally have not received salaries that met the rise in the cost of living, Cornell professors’ salaries have mostly kept up with inflation.
The average salary increase for full professors fell slightly below the rate of inflation. According to Prof. Ron Ehrenberg, industrial and labor relations, the University sometimes allocates less money to increasing full professors’ salaries because as these faculty members become older, it becomes less feasible for them to move to another university for a higher salary.
“The mobility of faculty members goes down when they’re older,” Ehrenberg said, noting that the “cost of movement has gone up.” This, he said, has made it less attractive for older faculty to relocate to get a higher salary.
Because older, full faculty are less willing to relocate in search of a higher salary, the University can afford to not increase their salaries as much as assistant or associate professors’ salaries, Ehrenberg said.
“In a sense, Cornell has more market power over its full professors,” Ehrenberg said.
Full professors’ salaries did not increase as much this year as in previous years because there was an unexpected jump in inflation rates, according to Mary market power over its full professors,” Ehrenberg said.
Full professors’ salaries did not increase as much this year as in previous years because there was an unexpected jump in inflation rates, according to Mary Opperman, vice president of human resources.
“You set your increases pretty far ahead,” Opperman said, noting that the University determines salary increases based on its expectations for the rate of inflation. “You set it where you think [inflation] is going to end up, and then they gauge where your salary increases fall ... and [inflation] changes a lot.”
Opperman noted the University spends more money recruiting associate and assistant professors than it does on full professors.
According to Ehrenberg, the University, on average, increases salaries for associate and assistant professors more because it must both competitively recruit and retain faculty.
“If [the University] is raising the salaries of new people coming in, then it has to worry about the young people who had been hired the year before,” Ehrenberg said. “A university has to be most competitive at the assistant professor level for hiring new faculty.”
Prof. Matthew Pritchard, earth and atmospheric sciences, echoed Ehrenberg’s sentiments, saying that offering newly hired professors higher wages makes Cornell more competitive in recruiting faculty. When he was comparing different institutions to work at, he said, “Cornell’s salary versus cost of living seemed like a better deal than most places.”
2012 marks the second year in a row that Cornell has been able to raise faculty salaries, after keeping wages relatively steady for two years after the financial crisis hit, The Sun reported in April 2011. Opperman said that, as the economy recovers, the University must be careful about what costs it incurs, while still working to increase salaries.
“Salary increases have been modest in the last couple of years, but we’ve been able to give [increases],” Opperman said.
According to the AAUP report, data shows that, nationally, wages, as well as salary increases that do not match the rate of inflation, are set to remain historically low for the next few years.
“If this is the recovery, we may be in for a long ride — and we have to wonder whether we’ll ever get back to where we were before the crash,” the report states.
Opperman, however, said that she remained optimistic about the University’s financial state.
“I think we’re doing as well as we can,” Opperman said. “It has been a tough three years.”
Correction: A previous version of this story contained several errors. It incorrectly stated that Cornell's average full-time faculty salary increased 2.5 percent from 2011, outpacing the rate of inflation. In fact, the average salary for "full professors" — faculty at the highest rank of the University, and not just any full-time professor — increased 2.5 percent, and that number was below the inflation rate of 3 percent. The article also stated that the average salary increase for full professors was 2.8 percent. In fact, it was 2.5 percent.