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Report: Salaries for Higher Ed Administrators Rising as Tenured Faculty Pay Goes Down

Report: Salaries for Higher Ed Administrators Rising as Tenured Faculty Pay Goes Down

“survey found that real wages for full-time faculty decreased 0.4 percent, the first decrease since the Great Recession”

Think about the billions of dollars the U.S. government has thrown at higher education over the last year.

The American Association of University Professors reports:

The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2020-21

This year’s Annual Report on the Economic Profession outlines how years of unstable funding, combined with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have created an existential threat to shared governance and academic freedom in higher education that severely weakens our nation’s ability to effectively educate our communities. The report presents findings from three related studies conducted by the AAUP Research Department: the AAUP’s annual Faculty Compensation Survey, a follow-up COVID-19 survey, and secondary data analyses of faculty and staff employment and institutional finance data. The Faculty Compensation Survey findings indicate that real wages for full-time faculty members decreased, on average; a majority of institutions reported decreases in average real wages for full-time faculty members and in the numbers of them employed.

Findings from the COVID-19 survey document institutional responses to the pandemic that included salary freezes or reductions, elimination or reduction of fringe benefits, and terminations or nonrenewals of faculty appointments. Finally, the secondary data analyses characterize long-standing economic crises in higher education—declining fiscal support, over-reliance on contingent faculty, growth of administrations, and spiraling institutional debt—and highlight the need for a New Deal for Higher Education, as called for by the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and other allies.

Key Findings from the 2020–21 Faculty Compensation Survey …

The survey found that real wages for full-time faculty decreased 0.4 percent, the first decrease since the Great Recession, after adjusting for inflation (the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, increased 1.4 percent in 2020). In nominal terms, average wages for all ranks of full-time faculty increased 1.0 percent, the lowest increase since the AAUP began tracking annual wage growth in 1972. Real wages decreased at 67.9 percent of participating colleges and universities, and the number of full-time faculty members employed decreased at 61.5 percent of participating institutions.

Further down, the report notes:

The study examined the growth from 2011–12 to 2018–19 of upper-level administration in higher education, a trend that puts shared governance at risk.

Key Finding: From fiscal year 2011–12 to fiscal year 2018–19, the numbers of staff classified as “management” increased 12 percent per FTE student, real average salaries increased 7 percent, and salary outlays per FTE student increased 19 percent, including an extraordinary 24 percent increase in real salary expenditures per FTE student in public colleges and universities. …

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Year over year salaries dip in real terms while other salaries increase over an 8-year period. What a stupid headline.

We don’t need a New Deal for Higher Education. We need to starve administrative budgets and fire a bunch of them.

In my 40 years in higher education, two trends have been constant: The ratio of administrators to faculty has always increased, and administrative salaries have always increased relative to faculty salaries.

Why? It’s because administrators decide whom they should hire, and they decide on the salaries. By hiring underlings, administrators increase their prestige and justify larger salaries.

In the colleges where I’ve worked, administrators have always proliferated like rabbits. In all of these schools, the ratios of administrators to faculty have doubled in the last 30 years. Now, there are VP’s for “Diversity”, “Academic advancement,” “Title 9,” etc., etc. Most of these additional administrators don’t contribute anything to the educational process, but just generate red tape to justify their jobs.

The last school where I worked recently laid off most of their NTT (non-tenure-track) faculty and hired a new VP for Diversity, who (with his entourage) will cost $400K per year. They could have saved 7 NTT jobs by not hiring the useless virtue signal. This next year, they are getting an unusually large class of freshmen. But most of the NTT faculty who taught most of the freshman courses (and did it for the least money) have been laid off. One solution would be to have the administrators teach courses, but that’s not going to happen.

    lawgrad in reply to OldProf2. | July 27, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    Respectfully, I have a different interpretation. When I was a student (back when dinosaurs walked the earth), each student was assigned a faculty advisor who received no training in crisis management nor in helping minority students adapt to a vigorous and competitive academic environment. Graduate students were ex0ected to do the busy-work for full professors and many faculty shared secretaries to do typing.

    Today, the secretaries are gone, and each faculty member types on a personal laptop. The Student Health service has been increased by two dozen psychologists to provide mental health advice to students, with the students demanding that that staff be increased further ahd that each identity group have at least one counselor of the same group. The Dean of Students has grown from 7 staff (including two secretaries) to 30 so that each identity group can have their own advisor. The Dean of Students Office is staffed with young people holding master degrees in Student Affairs, who in turn are whispering advice to student activists on how to demand more out of the central administration.

    OldProf2 is correct that most of these people would not recognized academic excellence if it walked up and introduced itself. But their goal, and their job descriptions are to promote “inclusionary excellence” and various specific diversity goals.

    Whenever students make another set of demands, I would wish that the central administration would just say, “this will increase tuition by $X per year, are you sure you want that?”

henrybowman | July 27, 2021 at 9:44 pm

It’s popcorn, all just popcorn. Watching a train wreck in slow motion is a privilege, and we should not waste the opportunity.