Faculty compensation in line with peer institutions

The average U professor’s yearly salary and benefits package is $127,000.

by Mitch Anderson

One of the pillars of the strategic positioning initiative, as laid out by University President Bob Bruininks upon its introduction three years ago, is retaining and attracting world-class instructors to the University.

The Board of Regents got a glimpse of their progress toward achieving that goal last week when the University presented its annual faculty compensation and salary comparisons report.

The report compared the salaries and compensation packages of University faculty to those of similar schools, such as Ohio State, Penn State and the University of Florida.

The report found that although University salaries were still below those of peer institutions, overall faculty compensation was above average, and salary rates were increasing.

Provost E. Thomas Sullivan said he was happy with the improvements the University has made in faculty payment.

“Faculty compensation is important in recruiting and retaining the best faculty who, in turn, make the University’s reputation,” he said. “Investing in faculty is a top priority, and we are pleased with the progress we have made relative to peer institutions.”

During the 2006-2007 school year, University professors averaged $127,800 in total salary and benefits, which bumped it from fourth to third place among the 11 comparison institutions.

During the past two years, the University has placed seventh in salary rankings, compared to those same schools.

Richard Howard, director of the University Office of Institutional Research and author of the report, said the last few years have seen a pronounced growth in faculty compensation.

Howard attributed the growth to the University’s emphasis on faculty recruitment and retention, part of the strategic positioning initiative.

“If we’re going to be competitive for students, graduate students and faculty, we need to have a competitive salary and compensation package,” he said. “This initiative that has been led by the Provost is starting to pay off. We’re starting to see the results.”

However, some faculty and staff remain cautiously optimistic about the report.

Geoffrey Sirc, chairman of the Faculty Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs, said both salary and benefits are key components when examining faculty compensation.

“I don’t think there’s any faculty or staff who aren’t aware of the wonderful benefits package we get and are very, very thankful for that,” Sirc said. “Unfortunately, our salaries are low, and some of the benefits may not be used by the faculty.

“Some benefits might not really be worthwhile for them because they’ll never be used,” he said. “But salary is used every day.”

The report said that while compensation and salary are important for recruiting and retaining faculty members, they aren’t the only factors. University reputation, quality of students, faculty support and school location were all listed as determining factors for faculty recruitment and retention.

Although he said he understands why the University pays professors based on merit, Sirc said he didn’t necessarily find it fair.

“The people who may not be the stellar grant-getters or big-time publishers are still doing enormously valuable work,” he said.

Overall, Sirc said he was pleased with the direction things are going, but acknowledged there’s still room for improvement.

“If we’re going to make this aspirational goal of becoming one of the top three public research universities, we’re not going to do it by being one of the lowest-paid faculties,” he said.

Other regents news

The Board of Regents elected Patricia Simmons as its new chair at last week’s meeting.

She joined the board in 2003 and most recently served as vice chair. Simmons is taking over for current chair Anthony Baraga, whose term is set to expire later this year.

Simmons is a physician and a professor in the department of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mayo Clinic and lives in the Rochester area.

The regents also reviewed the annual operating budget for 2007-2008. A public forum on Bruininks’ budget recommendations will be held Wednesday, June 13, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the boardroom of the McNamara Alumni Center. The regents will vote on the proposal June 27.