Salary data show lag in University compensation rates

Editor’s Note: This is the second in an occasional series analyzing the salaries of different departments and individuals at the University.

Emma Carew

Former University President Mark Yudof recently made waves when he took a new position as the head of the University of California system and picked up a compensation package worth more than $800,000.

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Just as there are discrepancies in pay all over the country in higher education, similar differences exist within the University system among the four coordinate campuses.

The Minnesota Daily analysis of the 2008 faculty salary data found that significant differences exist between the salaries of professors at all levels on the Twin Cities, Duluth, Morris and Crookston campuses.

Overwhelmingly, the Morris campus has lower averages in compensation for assistant, associate and full professors than the other three campuses.

In the case of full professors, the average Morris faculty member makes as much as $23,000 less than the average Twin Cities faculty member.

The Crookston campus also lags in competitive compensation for its faculty members, with the average salary for full professors about $21,000 below the Twin Cities campus.

Vice President for Human Resources Carol Carrier said the University often looks at similar peer institutions, like the University of Wisconsin, for faculty salary comparisons, while the University’s Crookston campus would be compared with a smaller school.

Furthermore, initial hiring salaries for faculty are also determined by the market of the area each candidate teaches in, Carrier said.

“The English professor across the country probably has a lower average salary than a chemical engineering professor,” she said.

Faculty members on different campuses recognize that their salaries would naturally differ given the varied roles and missions of each campus.

Duluth philosophy department chairwoman Eve Browning said the Duluth campus used to act as a smaller campus within the large University system.

“UMD used to identify itself as a place where students would have smaller classes and get to know their professors,” she said.

Browning said this atmosphere has changed in the nearly 30 years she has been a professor.

“The research pressure is much more intensive now,” she said. “Other aspects of your activities count for much less than it used to.”

With the University’s overarching goal of becoming one of the top-three public research schools, the faculty seem to realize that research is where the University’s focus is currently anchored – and consequently where the money is spent.

Tom Clayton, regents professor of English language and literature on the Twin Cities campus, said the four campuses have different functions and missions.

“The expectations for productivity are almost certainly different at Morris and Crookston,” he said. “It’s not that they’re inferior; they have somewhat different missions.”

Clayton said he also wouldn’t be surprised if the cost of living was factored into the Twin Cities campus salaries, because of the costs associated with the city area.

Additionally, faculty members are noticing the salaries for entry-level professors are rising at a higher rate than those for mid-career faculty.

Greg Thorson, political science professor on the Morris campus, called the trend “salary compression.”

“Senior faculty aren’t making dramatically more than entry-level faculty,” he said.

The average differences between full and assistant professors range from around $20,000 on the Crookston campus to $35,000 on the Duluth campus.

Clayton said when he started his first job teaching English at Yale in 1960, he made a “magnificent salary of $5,000 a year,” which he said was not a livable wage.

He switched jobs after two years, leaving for UCLA. The move from private to public institution for better pay would be unlikely to occur today because of the widening gap between private and public salaries.

Thorson said the salary increases for promotion to associate professor (tenure) or to full professor are “very very small” and are “very demoralizing.”

The difference in compensation levels across the four campuses are natural and would be expected, he said. “But they are getting faster and larger over time.”

Emma Carew is a senior staff reporter.