Most full-time faculty members at the nation’s colleges have seen their salaries rebound well above where they were before the recession of eight years ago, according to new survey data published by the American Association of University Professors.
Adjusting for inflation, full-time faculty members who had worked at their institutions for at least two years earned 9 percent more in the 2015-16 academic year than they did in 2007-8, the annual AAUP survey found. Helping drive such growth were inflation-adjusted increases in their salaries of nearly 3 percent in each of the past two years.
That population saw its pay fully recover from the recession as of the 2013-14 academic year and has been gaining ground since, John Barnshaw, the AAUP’s senior higher-education researcher, said in an interview last week.
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“Taken together, data from a variety of sources indicate a gradually improving economy, incremental increases in state appropriations for higher education, and modest improvements in college and university endowments,” says the AAUP’s report on its latest annual survey’s findings.
Last year’s report concluded that faculty pay had yet to fully recover from the recession’s effects. It reached that determination, however, by crunching survey data on all full-time faculty members — whether or not they had been employed at their institution at least two years — and therefore it took into account new faculty members and those who had moved from one job to another.
This year’s AAUP survey suspended efforts to chart long-term salary trends for all faculty members, instead basing such trend analyses heavily on data on full-time professors and instructors who had worked at least two years at their institution. AAUP researchers needed to take such an approach because they had altered their methodology and expanded their survey’s scope to include data on part-time faculty members and graduate-student employees. Their report estimates that part-timers account for 41 percent of the academic labor force, and graduate-student employees, 13 percent.
The report says the average part-time faculty member this year earned about $16,700 from any single employer. Their earnings varied heavily by institutional type, ranging from a high of about $26,300 at doctoral institutions to a low of about $9,800 for those who worked at associate colleges and held no rank.
Calls for Conversion
The AAUP’s report on this year’s survey findings tempers its good news about growth in professors’ pay with a discussion of how their share of the academic work force has experienced a long-term decline.
Over the past four decades, it says, the overall number of full-time tenured positions has dropped by 26 percent, and the number of full-time tenure-track positions by 50 percent. The recent recession hastened the tenure system’s decline, it says.
Much of the report focuses on making a case for why colleges need to reverse such trends, and providing overall and institution-specific estimates of what it would cost to convert part-time positions into jobs for tenure-track assistant professors or full-time instructors. Saying it costs an average of about $85,400 to convert a part-time instructor into a tenure-track assistant professor, the report estimates that converting all such jobs would cost an amount equal to nearly 17 percent of U.S. higher-education expenditures. Converting half would cost about 8.5 percent of higher-education expenditures.
“If institutions are to commit to academic excellence, the conversion of contingent part-time faculty to full-time and preferably tenure-track positions must be a central component of long-term strategic plans,” the report says. It notes, however, that an AAUP survey of faculty members found that just 7 percent of full-timers and just 3 percent of part-timers believed their institution had such a conversion plan in place.
The AAUP bases its annual compensation report on data collected from more than 1,000 colleges around the nation. The Chronicle maintains a searchable database on faculty pay at more than 4,700 colleges based on information collected by the U.S. Education Department.