U survey finds private school faculty earn more

Lee Billings

Despite average faculty salaries rising 3 percent nationwide during 2002-03, not all institutions are seeing the gains. Private schools are faring better than public universities.

In an annual presentation to the Board of Regents, Peter Zetterberg, director of the University’s Office of Institutional Research and Reporting, highlighted the growing gap between public and private education. Much of the report was based on a National Center for Educational Statistics survey of faculty salaries.

“There are 16 private institutions and 14 public ones, and the first 12 institutions with highest salaries are all private,” Zetterberg said. “If you were to look at all of the public campuses in that peer group, you would see that they are mostly behind the private institutions.”

Zetterberg said the conflict between prestigious private schools and massive public ones is not anything new – it has been that way for more than 25 years. Smaller, privately funded colleges often have higher faculty salaries than larger public universities.

The larger a public school, the more difficulty it can have competing with the top private schools. The University’s adjunct campuses come closer to private schools’ salary capabilities, Zetterberg said.

For example, the difference is much less pronounced between private colleges and schools such as the University’s Morris campus, he said. “It’s really an entirely different situation.”

The situation could continue to decline considering the current stagnant economy and possible tax cuts.

The University faces state funding cuts because of a $4.2 billion deficit in the next two years. Less money means increased tuition for students and higher insurance premiums and wage freezes for employees. Officials have speculated that the combination of less pay and more fees might be a recipe for losing top professors.

But rough financial times have affected private schools, too.

“I’m not terribly concerned about what’s going to happen next year because even some of the more prominent private institutions will be freezing salaries,” Zetterberg said. “Duke (University) and Stanford (University) have already announced that.”

Other Big Ten schools are feeling the pain as well. At the University of Michigan, state funding cuts mean faculty salaries next year will not increase by the typical 5 percent, said Julie Peterson, a Michigan spokeswoman.

“Our state budget had a $1 billion deficit at least, and the governor’s budget calls for a 10 percent reduction in state support,” she said.

The University of Michigan has been forced to reallocate resources and cut costs to prevent the raiding of faculty by private institutions, but even then the school is just “treading water,” Peterson said.

“(Private schools) come in with these high offers for our really good faculty, and we have to work hard to retain them,” she said. “We don’t want privates to always have the best resources, the best faculty and take the really good teachers away from public schools.”

University officials said faculty are not being lured away from the school, and if they were, it could actually help the University’s cause.

“I don’t think there’s a mass exodus,” said College of Liberal Arts spokeswoman Eugenia Smith. “This could help our case with the Legislature, of course, if people were leaving in droves because of the pay, but I don’t see any evidence that that’s happening.”