April 12, 2007

Faculty Salaries Rise Again

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Recently, the University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) released its 2006-07 National Faculty Salary Survey for institutions of higher education. The survey gathered information from 205,200 faculty members at 824 institutions across the United States and showed a 3.8 percent increase in median faculty salary over the last academic year.
The survey is one of two major faculty salary surveys released each year. While the CUPA-HR survey focuses on academic disciplines in relation to salary, the American Association of University Professors study, due out later this month, looks at the institutional averages.
Prof. Ronald Ehrenberg, ILR and chairperson for Cornell’s Financial Policies Committee (FPC), a faction of the Faculty Senate, said that the AAUP study will more accurately convey the individual universities’ salaries and allow the public to compare Cornell’s faculty salaries to its competitors.
The CUPA-HR noted that the rise in faculty salaries follows a general trend of faculty salary increase seen in the past few years. In 2005-06 there was a 3.4 percent increase, and a 3.2 percent rise the year before. This overall rise, however, affects some disciplines more than others. Faculty in law, engineering and business have received the highest pay in both public and private institutions throughout the U.S. The lowest paid positions, however, vary between different universities.
Ehrenberg mentioned that although the recent rise in faculty salaries is encouraging, such salaries remain extremely low relative to those of other occupations.
“If you compare faculty salaries to that of professionals in medicine and law, faculty do not get paid very well, thus these faculty salary increases are necessary,” he said.
From 1970-1980, faculty salaries across the country fell substantially, Ehrenberg said it is only now that they are finally back to where they were 25 years ago.
Another notable influence on the continuous salary rise in higher education that the CUPA-HR mentioned in its findings is the high starting salaries that new assistant professors are receiving. Especially in the fields of gender and ethnic studies and the physical sciences, there has been a large influx of new professors over the past few years. These new assistant professors are receiving higher initial salaries than the incumbent assistant professors, forcing the universities to push up the incumbents’ wages. Still, the average salaries of incoming assistant professors continue to surpass the wages of their incumbent colleagues.
In addition, Prof. Elizabeth Peters, policy analysis and management, said that the increase in average faculty salary is the result of “the competition in the market and rise in the cost of living. If we don’t keep up with the market we won’t be able to maintain our high quality of faculty. The market forces are important in retaining and attracting a first-rate faculty.”
It seems that Cornell is responding to this national trend. The Division of Planning and Budget’s 2006-07 Financial Plan In-Year Forecast, released in January, reported that “the average salary for endowed Ithaca faculty whose appointments continued from 2005-06 to 2006-07 increased 4.8 percent in 2006-07 while the comparable average for contract colleges faculty grew 5.5 percent. The overall changes in average faculty salaries were 2.6 percent and 4.6 percent respectively for these two cohorts.”
In the past, the faculty salary averages in Cornell’s endowed colleges were 1.1 percent below the mean, while the contracted colleges were 4 percent above the mean. Now, the report found, with the successful completion of a multi-year effort, Cornell’s faculty salary will be determined through the use of an approach considering special circumstances and taking into account the average faculty salaries of important competitors in individual academic disciplines.