Faculty salaries rank middle-of-the-road

New data rank the University’s average salaries as seventh in a peer group of 11.Editor’s Note: This is last in a series of articles analyzing the salaries of different departments and individuals at the University.

Emma Carew

While the University works to become one of the top-three public research universities in the world, current data show its average faculty salaries might not be high enough to achieve that goal.

Data presented Thursday at the Board of Regents Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee rank the University’s average salaries as seventh in a peer group of 11.

“What it boils down to is a university’s ability to attract and retain top faculty,” John Curtis, director of research and public policy for American Association of University Professors said. “If the salaries are not attractive, the faculty members will look elsewhere.”

The average salary for full professors in the University’s peer group ranges from $104,700 at the University of Wisconsin to $142,000 at the University of California-Los Angeles.

The University falls in the middle at $121,270. With associate professors, the University’s rank moves up to fifth.

Curtis said one way an institution can improve its ranking in areas of teaching and research is to invest in faculty salaries and benefits.

Stories like the recent case of two top University hires accused of double-dipping may “get more attention than they really deserve,” Curtis said, meaning the stories create an image of many high-paid professors.

“There are a lot of faculty who aren’t getting $150,000 or $250,000. Most faculty aren’t even close to that,” he added.

Leonard Goldfine, assistant director for the office of institutional research, said the University’s peer ranking moves up to fourth if total compensation – like heath, dental and retirement benefits – is considered, rather than raw salaries.

View a spreadsheet of University professors’ salaries.
(Microsoft Excel File ~4MB)

For the past three years, when faculty members were considering offers from other institutions, the University was able to offer them a retention package, often including a salary boost and research funding support.

The budgeted funds run out at the end of the fiscal year in 2008, Provost Tom Sullivan said, and the 2009 budget is unlikely to include funding for a new special compensation pool.

Geography professor George Henderson received one of these “preventative retentions.”

Henderson said it’s common to be wooed by other institutions. When other schools are interested, they usually send a letter or an e-mail.

“It’s typically something like, ‘We’ve got a short list in mind, and you’re on it,’ ” he said.

“I think that it’s not always as easy as I’m making it sound,” Henderson said. “By and large, I think the faculty who’ve gotten these are very happy with them.”

In the future, individual colleges’ deans might set aside money from their college’s compensation fund for retention packages, Sullivan said.

“We’ve been highly successful in rewarding our most productive faculty,” he said of the special compensation pool. “We’re going to try to get it back in the budget down the road.”

Allen Levine, College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences dean, outlined his college’s process of determining salaries and salary increases each year for the committee.

Levine said individual department heads make recommendations to the dean’s office based on annual evaluations of teaching, research, outreach and extension.

Each college is given a specific pool of money for faculty compensation, he said. This year, $100,000 from the CFANS pool went into a fund for faculty of exceptional merit.

Levine said they aren’t given formal data on the salaries of peer institutions based on their fields and discipline, but they are able to find information on their own.

Director of Institutional Reporting Rich Howard said he hopes to bring discipline-specific data to the Board of Regents and the colleges within six or seven months.

Howard also addressed the University’s lower ranking in average salaries, and said the range of salaries can be affected by the mix of disciplines on campuses and the market demand for them.

He also said salary and compensation aren’t the only factors faculty members consider when looking at new offers; they may also consider the reputation of the school, quality of facilities and location.

Emma Carew is a senior staff reporter.