April 21, 2008

Report Finds Univ. Faculty Salaries Increase 5 Percent

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Across the country, colleges and universities are struggling to maintain faculty salaries as funds are increasingly spent on both athletics and administration, according to the report entitled “Where Are the Priorities? The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2007–08,” published by the American Association of University Professors on April 14.
“We are critical of many schools … but I would say that Cornell is more of a role model to follow,” said Saranna Thornton, primary author of the AAUP report and professor of economics at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.
According to the 2007-08 Financial Plan-in-Year Forecast published by Cornell’s Division of Planning and Budget, the average salary for faculty in endowed colleges “increased 5 percent in 2007-08 while the comparable average for contract college faculty grew 5.3 percent.”
Many universities, including Cornell, are still working to maintain competitive faculty salaries.
“I’d always want to improve [salaries] rather than keep [them] at the same level. I think we’re doing quite well, but it’s a struggle to keep faculty and staff salaries as high as we need them to be, not just to stay put, but to meet challenge,” said Provost Biddy Martin.
The average faculty salary at Cornell ranks lower than all other Ivy League schools besides Brown. Over a nine-month period from 2006-07, Cornell faculty earned an average of $112,636, according to the 2007-08 Financial Plan. Endowed college faculty were paid an average of $118,422, while faculty at the contract colleges earned an average of $104,102.[img_assist|nid=30067|title=Prof Average Salaries Compared|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Harvard ranked the highest, with an average faculty salary of $138,666 per nine-month period.
Martin acknowledged that these numbers, however, do not take into account extraneous factors, such as the cost of living.
“Compared to the other Ivies, we compare relatively well, given the cost of living here [in Ithaca]. And I think that’s true certainly … that we are lower than most of the Ivies, but it’s largely because the cost of living is much different here. It’s hard to compare. The really crucial thing is whether we are losing faculty to other institutions and I don’t think we’ve seen a significant problem,” Martin said.
Aside from the issue of athletic funding, the AAUP report also highlighted increasing administrative salaries.
“Average salaries for these top administrative positions are typically twice those of even senior professors [at private-independent and church-related colleges] … The fact that they are also growing more rapidly indicates that salaries for administrators apparently have a higher priority than those for faculty,” the report states.
Rising administrative costs, Thornton added, are also due to the creation of new positions. Cornell follows this trend, but according to Martin, the new positions are necessary and beneficial to all students and and faculty.
“We’ve tried for a very long time to keep administrative costs low. There has been overall increase relative to what we spend on faculty … The core increase is in the Investment Office and Development Office. However, we expect a significant return on our dollar,” Martin said. “The other area we’ve seen increase in staff is in [Information Technologies] and that is necessary to support teaching and research.”
The staffing increase in the Investment Office is a result of a shifting focus towards endowment performance, which Thornton acknowledged as an area for improvement at Cornell.
“Cornell has been trying to raise a lot of money for their endowment, which is important because it’s a good source of revenue. I think it’s very good that they’re raising money and it helps provide a lot of opportunities for students,” Thornton said.
Thornton hopes that in general, the AAUP report will cause “students and parents and taxpayers and administrators to look at where colleges are spending their money and refocus their priorities.”
Martin said that Cornell works to maintain faculty salaries at appropriate levels.
“We try to be constantly vigilant on how we’re doing. We pay very careful attention and we keep as close to the market medium [of salaries] as we can. We study continually, and I think that’s our focus,” Martin said.
The report also analyzed the rising trend in universities across the country towards higher salaries for coaches relative to faculty salaries. On average, Division 1 institutions pay head football coaches ten times more than they pay full professor.
At Cornell, “funding for athletics is part of an enterprise in Student Life so it’s a separate fund from what we pay faculty salaries,” according to provost Biddy Martin. She acknowledged that while a progression toward disparate salaries between coaches and professors is evident amongst many D-1 schools, it is not a trend at Cornell.