University ranks low for faculty salaries

by Matt Graham

In comparison with other research universities in the nation, the University is 28th out of 30 for faculty pay.

These institutions make up a “peer group,” which consists of the top 30 research universities in the United States. The peer group features six other Big Ten schools but also includes such Ivy League institutions as Harvard University and Yale University.

The peer group for the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus is separate from that of the coordinate campuses.

Carol Carrier, vice president of human resources for the University of Minnesota, said the peer group comparison is useful for helping to set professors’ pay.

“We want to make sure that our salaries are competitive,” she said.

Jim Parente, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, said it is important to not lag behind other schools in salary rates.

“We have to be quite aggressive in setting that salary,” he said.

But, Parente said, the University of Minnesota has recently fallen from 26th to 28th in its peer group ranking for faculty salaries.

Dennis Ahlburg, senior associate dean for faculty and research at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said schools that pay the most tend to have the best faculty members.

He said schools such as Harvard University and Yale University used to be able to attract top faculty members based on reputation alone “but not any more.”

“You can’t necessarily buy your way to the top, but it certainly helps,” Ahlburg said.

More than salaries

But salaries are not the only means of attracting faculty members. The University of Minnesota is able to offer

other benefits to make it more attractive in the recruitment process.

The University ranks higher in the peer group for total compensation (22nd) than it does for salaries, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting.

Total compensation figures include fringe benefits such as health care and retirement packages.

Another perk is the University of Minnesota’s Relocation Assistance Program.

If the University of Minnesota tries recruiting a professor whose spouse or partner also works in academics, the school can often find a job for the second person, “even if they’re not the main hire,” Carrier said.

She said the University of Minnesota also offers attractive leave and sabbatical packages to professors.

Along with pay and benefits, Carrier said, the University of Minnesota’s location is also a major attractor of talent.

“The Twin Cities are great attractions, so we try to use that and everything the area has to offer when we’re recruiting faculty,” she said.

Conflicting needs

Carrier said the University of Minnesota needs to rely on these other benefits because it is becoming more difficult to offer high salaries. She said the school’s dual goals of being a top research university while also providing an affordable public education can be hard to balance.

“As funds from the state diminish, then more pressure shifts to tuition,” she said.

But Carrier said not all funds come from the State Legislature. The University of Minnesota also draws funds from “external grants and contracts.”

Carrier said the University of Minnesota also helps faculty members set up their research after they arrive.

“Faculty members who come here for research have big setup issues,” she said.

The University of Minnesota has an entire office devoted to professors’ grant requests – the goal being to make research work as easy as possible for faculty members, Carrier said.

Roberta Humphreys, associate dean for academic affairs at the Institute of Technology, said there are several benefits to bringing in top faculty members.

Humphreys said highly regarded faculty members bring “research grants and contracts to support graduate students and undergraduate research.”

Peter Zetterberg, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting, said it is vital for the University of Minnesota to hire the top academic talent because a high-profile faculty helps recruit the top graduate students.

But Parente said the competition is now extending beyond the peer group and that it is tougher than ever as more of the top professors take jobs overseas.

“We’ve had to pay attention recently to the international setting, especially to the United Kingdom,” he said.