Prof salary hikes beat inflation

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series looking at faculty trends in higher education. Wednesday’s will look at emerging trends.

Faculty raises, after inflation, were higher last year than they have been in more than 20 years, according to data released Monday by the American Association of University Professors. But this could quickly change as universities facing budget cuts across the country choose to freeze faculty salaries. The annual report is called âÄúOn the BrinkâÄù and it documents the economic status of the profession. With a low 0.1 percent inflation rate during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years, as opposed to a 4.1 inflation rate before that, professors across the nation found that for the first time in eight years, raises were not drastically reduced by inflation. While the average raise for the 2007-08 school year for tenured faculty was 4.3 percent, when adjusted by the 4.1 percent inflation rate, the raise only amounted to 0.2 percent more pay. The data show that many times faculty raises only cover the rise in cost of living. While cost of living is an area is something some schools take into account when distributing raises, University of Minnesota Vice Provost for Faculty and Academics Arlene Carney said raises at the University are completely merit-based. Carney said raises, which average up to 3.25 percent a year, are available to every professor on regular appointment, meaning they teach more than one specific class. The only people who cannot receive a raise are those who teach a course but are not on appointment. When comparing the University average of a 3.25 percent raise against the average increase nationally, faculty at the University are slightly under the national rate over the past five years. Carney said some faculty members receive more than the average while others receive less. Each personâÄôs raise is determined by a faculty activity report. The report documents the personâÄôs scholarship and creative work, teaching and service. At this point either the department head or a faculty committee will examine the reports, rating and ranking each faculty member within a department. This ranking system is what is used to assess raises. While University faculty have come to expect raises each year, with the announced salary freeze, the University joined institutions nationwide that are scrambling to cut and control their budgets. AAUP data show drastic measures being taken by universities in order to effectively operate in a declining economy. Many institutions, like the University, have implemented hiring pauses and salary freezes. Boston University targeted faculty members making the most money by freezing the salaries of employees who make more than $150,000. The president of Bowdoin College in Maine announced in January that all salaries of more than $40,000 were being frozen. University Vice President of Budget and Finance Richard Pfutzenreuter said he does not believe the University will target higher-paid faculty. âÄúIn higher education there are rich and poor segments of the university, I hate to admit that, but there are,âÄù Pfutzenreuter said, âÄúBut âĦ approaches like that, I donâÄôt know how well they work.âÄù Pfutzenreuter added that these measures are all tools to stay within a budget, but itâÄôs hard to make the distinction as to where you draw the line when targeting salaries. Another tool being used nationally, to the detriment of faculty, is the use of furloughs. Furloughs are when faculty must take a specific amount of time off, unpaid. According to the AAUP report, The Maryland Board of Regents approved a plan in December stating all employees must take five days off, unpaid, before June 30. Pfutzenreuter said furloughs have been discussed at the University, but there is no plan to implement them next school year. He added the furloughs which were discussed mainly concerned having faculty members take time off unpaid during the holidays. Pfutzenreuter said there are still talks of shutting down the entire University over the holidays to save money. While other schools are reducing salaries and decreasing contributions to faculty retirement funds, Pfutzenreuter is positive the University will not have to take these measures. âÄúI think weâÄôre in decent shape, not having to reduce salaries or cut benefits,âÄù he said. âÄúThere may be some tweaking in terms of benefits, a change in who pays for what, but there is not a large-scale movement to really dramatically shift costs to our employees in that fashion.âÄù Pfutzenreuter followed that comment by adding that everything is currently based on todayâÄôs landscape, âÄúeverything could change.âÄù