Over the last three years, media reports have examined every possible tidbit of economic data, bringing us daily and even hourly forecasts, updates, and speculation on the contours of the broader economy’s very slow recovery from the Great Recession of 2007–09. The reporters seem to make every effort to point out the silver lining otherwise shrouded by the clouds of continuing high unemployment, looming foreclosure threats, and stagnant earnings for all but a very few. This report on faculty compensation and the economics of higher education is different. We produce the Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession only once a year, so it lacks some of the drama of the broadcast news, and our examination of the available data over the last three years especially has failed to produce much evidence of a silver lining. That’s not to say that all the news is bad, but important long-term trends are still heading in the wrong direction for higher education.
In this year’s report we cover three main issues—all perennial problems, but with new analysis based on the latest data—in addition to summarizing the current results from the annual AAUP survey of full-time faculty compensation. We provide new data to document the most significant trend in academic labor of this era, the unabated growth of contingent employment. Our analysis enumerates the overall trend in employment status, examines pay for part-time faculty members, and presents an entirely new dataset on the compensation and working conditions of full-time non-tenure-track faculty members. The following section examines the sharp drop in state funding for higher education, with figures for all fifty states. And finally, we take another look at the (still) growing pay differentials between the public and the private sectors. How much less are you earning if you teach at a public college or university? Quite a bit, unfortunately.
The News This Year
Each year, the AAUP Research Office gathers data on full-time faculty salaries and benefits from colleges and universities of all types, all across the country. We tabulate and present the results in this annual report, so that faculty members, colleges and universities, and the general public can inform themselves about the compensation faculty members earn, set within the broader economic context for higher education. Our analysis this year indicates that after three years of increases in average salary levels that lagged behind the rate of inflation, the overall increase this year matched the increase in consumer prices— but only just barely. Salaries did not actually rise any faster this year, but the rate of inflation was low enough to keep them from falling any further behind.
Table A provides a historical overview of changes in salary from one year to the next. It is divided into two sections that depict the two most fundamental “findings” from the annual AAUP survey. The upper half of the table records the yearly change in the average salary level for each of the upper four faculty ranks, and for all ranks combined, at the colleges and universities that provided data both this year and last. In essence, this section of the table answers the question, “How does the average salary of a full-time faculty member this year compare with the average last year?” It depicts the changing remuneration of the profession as a whole, rather than of the individuals employed within it. The right half of the table compares the change in average salary with the national increase in consumer prices over the previous year, as a measure of whether the purchasing power of faculty salaries is keeping pace with inflation. Table A indicates that salaries held steady over the past year. This finding represents a slight improvement over the three preceding years, largely the result of a relatively low inflation rate, but that is small consolation for the many faculty members who are still struggling to make ends meet.
The AAUP survey produces a second basic measure of full-time faculty salaries, one that is unique to this report. The “average change for continuing faculty members” forms the lower half of table A. It is a measure of the change in salary a full-time faculty member could expect over the previous year, on average, if he or she remained at the same institution. This is the “average raise” calculated for the large majority of faculty members—about 79 percent of all full-time faculty members whose compensation is reported to the AAUP—who continued their work from the previous year without a change in basic employment status. The continuing faculty figure includes all elements of salary change in a single number, comprising the total of across-the-board, promotion, and merit or other discretionary increases (or, as has become more common in recent years, decreases); as such, that figure is generally larger than the change in average salary level. At 3.2 percent for 2012–13, it is marginally higher than it has been in several years, but still well below the average level of annual increases over the last ten years.
Survey report table 1 (located with other standard tables after this report) provides greater detail on the one-year changes in full-time faculty salary increases across institutional categories. As is the case in table A, this table presents two different measures of salary change: the change in average salary levels for institutions submitting data both this year and last and the average change in salary for faculty members continuing at the same institution. The most significant comparison in the table is between the public and private institutional categories; private religiously affiliated institutions are presented separately because they tend to be smaller and pay lower salaries.
Looking first at the change in salary levels presented on the left side of the table, we see that average salaries in the public sector grew more slowly than those at either private-independent institutions or religiously affiliated institutions, as has been the case for many years. This public-sector disadvantage holds across all three institutional categories for which we received a sufficient number of private-sector responses to enable the comparison, with only a few exceptions at specific ranks. The right half of survey report table 1 breaks down the average salary increase for continuing full-time faculty members. As noted previously, these levels of increase are generally higher than those found for salaries overall, since they do not include the net effect of senior faculty members retiring. The public-private comparison on this measure produces essentially the same result as that depicted for the change in average salary levels, with continuing faculty members in the public sector receiving salary increases that are lower, on average, than those at private-sector institutions. We take a more in-depth look at the public-private salary differential later in this report.
A consistent theme in our last two annual reports has been that, even though the Great Recession of 2007–09 was declared formally over for the US economy as a whole, the recessionary period for higher education continues. The data at our disposal show some signs of very slow recovery in full-time faculty salaries. But state-level indicators, discussed below, do not give cause for great hope that more rapid improvement is close at hand.
The emergence of contingent employment as the most common situation for instructional staff members has been a recurring concern of this annual report in recent years. Under the heading of contingent instructional staff we include full- and part-time faculty members not on the tenure track and graduate student employees. (The category should include postdoctoral fellows as well, but national datasets provide us with very little information on individuals in these positions.) As has been detailed in numerous other AAUP reports, individuals employed in contingent academic positions have limited academic freedom, since their employment is subject to termination or nonrenewal without due-process procedures that are vital as protectors of academic freedom. Faculty members with contingent appointments risk dismissal if they challenge students by assigning significant reading loads or in-depth writing assignments. Graduate student instructors who raise controversial topics in their seminars can be deprived of their assistantships or even expelled from their programs. In most cases the individuals employed in contingent positions lack the institutional support necessary to do their jobs effectively, whether that be in the form of technology, private office space for consultation with students, or access to funds for travel to academic conferences. Too often, our colleagues in contingent positions are also excluded from meaningful participation in shared governance, as documented in the recent AAUP report The Inclusion in Governance of Faculty Members Holding Contingent Appointments.
This year’s report adds to the body of knowledge regarding the compensation and working conditions of academics employed in contingent positions. We first provide an updated overview of the extent of contingent employment on the basis of national aggregate employment statistics, followed by a supplement to recent reports on the compensation of part-time faculty members. Finally, we provide new analysis of data on the compensation and working conditions of full-time nontenure- track faculty members.
Figure 1 provides an update on trends in instructional staff employment through fall 2011, the most recent year for which national data have been released by the US Department of Education. Unfortunately, complete tabulations for fall 2011 have not yet been published at the time of this writing, so figure 1 provides an estimate for the most recent year based on the partial tabulations available.
Combining the contingent employment categories as described above, the graph shows that more than three of every four instructional staff positions (76 percent) are filled on a contingent basis. By far the largest category of employment is the part-time faculty (we explore the nomenclature for this category below). Tenured and tenure-track full-time positions combined form the next largest category but represent less than 25 percent of all appointments, and the proportions of individuals in both categories have been declining steadily. Over the entire period covered by the graph, the most rapid growth has been in part-time faculty appointments, which increased in number by more than 300 percent between 1975 and 2011. By contrast, the number of faculty members in full-time tenured or tenure-track positions grew by only 26 percent during the same period. In the most recent two-year period, it appears that growth in full-time positions off the tenure track actually was slightly more rapid than the increase in part-time faculty positions.
The failure to provide full support to instructors employed on a contingent basis deprives students of the highest-quality academic experience, and the predominance of contingent appointments weakens the academic enterprise. Furthermore, the unabated growth of contingency constitutes an ongoing threat to academic freedom that should be of concern to all who value higher education. If the majority of our colleagues are deprived of a full measure of academic freedom, can any of us be assured of our own freedom to question received wisdom and explore the most difficult dilemmas facing society?
There has been a lively (and ongoing) discussion among faculty advocates regarding the most appropriate labels for the various contingent employment categories that now comprise the large majority of instructional staff positions. The individuals in the largest category are most often referred to as “adjuncts,” even though many commentators have pointed out that their work is central, rather than peripheral, to the higher education enterprise. In this report, we refer to this category as “part-time faculty,” denoting the formal employment status these individuals hold. However, we acknowledge that many of our colleagues employed in “part-time” positions teach course loads comparable to those of full-time faculty members and may do so over a number of years. That they are regarded as part-time (and, indeed, “temporary”) employees by their institutions, however, is central to understanding their precarious situation—and the detrimental consequences of that precarious status for the quality of instruction they offer and for academic freedom itself.
As was noted in last year’s report, the AAUP is a founding member of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW), a group of disciplinary societies and other organizations concerned with the deleterious effects on higher education of the overuse of contingent instructional appointments. In fall 2010, CAW carried out a survey of nearly twenty-nine thousand individuals employed in contingent academic positions. The first report of data from that survey, A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members, was released in June 2012. We refer readers who would like a more complete picture of the compensation and working conditions of part-time faculty members to the CAW report, but we are also including here a previously unpublished table on part-time faculty pay using those survey data.1
More than ten thousand part-time faculty members responded to questions in the CAW survey. These individuals were teaching a total of 19,615 courses and provided pay information for 17,035 of them. The median rate of pay per course (standardized at three credits) over all of those courses was $2,700. (The median, the point at which half of reported wage rates are lower and half are higher, is a better measure of the typical pay rate than the mean, commonly called the average, when data are available for each of the units being analyzed—in this case, each course taught by a responding part-time faculty member. The median is not skewed by a small number of entries at the high end, whereas the mean is.) Table B provides a breakdown of median pay rates by type of institution and region of the country.
The table indicates differences in pay rates attributable to the interaction of three main factors: institutional sector (public, private nonprofit, or for-profit), institutional level (based on degrees awarded), and geographic region. The effects of these factors on part-time faculty pay are similar to those observed in full-time faculty pay, albeit on a much smaller scale. With a range in median per-course wages from $1,800 at southeastern community colleges to $5,225 at private doctoral universities in New England, the variation is considerable. In general, per-course pay increases with the level of degrees awarded by the institution. Within each of these classifications, private nonprofit institutions generally pay more than public institutions and private for-profit institutions pay much less. (It should be noted, however, that the number of responses from faculty members teaching in for-profit institutions was much smaller than the numbers from the other two sectors.) Finally, there are differences in pay between regions, with institutions in New England generally paying the highest wages and those in the Southeast paying the lowest. (We find similar differences by region in full-time faculty pay in the AAUP survey.)
It bears pointing out how low part-time faculty pay rates actually are. In spring 1989, the second author of this report was a doctoral candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was paid $3,000 per course to teach undergraduate economics. In 2010 dollars that would be $5,457 per course, slightly more than the median amount reported in 2010 by CAW respondents from the highest-paying sector, private doctoral universities in New England, and twice the overall national median rate. Although it has now been more than two years since the CAW survey data were collected, we have not adjusted the pay rates shown in table B for inflation, because it is not at all clear that part-time faculty pay rates are adjusted regularly to match increases in the cost of living. Only 18.8 percent of part-time faculty respondents to the CAW survey reported receiving regular salary increases.2
Solely for the sake of comparison, we can multiply the per-course wage rates shown in table B by a factor of eight courses—a full load for all but the most overworked community college faculty members—to produce an academic-year equivalent salary. These salaries would then range from about $18,000 in associate’s degree colleges (a little more than the pay of a full-time minimum wage worker) to just over $30,000 at private doctoral universities. That rate of pay represents one-third or less of the national average salary for full-time faculty members at those institutions, based on the AAUP’s 2010–11 data—and part-time positions do not include benefits, in most cases.
Later in 2012, the Center for the Future of Higher Education released a report based on data collected by the New Faculty Majority Foundation in fall 2011. Who Is Professor “Staff” and How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes? focuses on the deleterious effects of two prevalent practices in the employment of part-time faculty members: “just-intime” hiring and a lack of institutional support for instruction. Because of its relatively small respondent pool, the report focuses on exposing the negative consequences of these unsatisfactory working conditions on the educational experiences of students rather than on specific measures of compensation or workload. The AAUP continues to work in collaboration with both organizations, and we welcome the increased data collection— but we need much, much more data.
Using available national data, we cannot say definitively what proportion of total college and university instruction is provided by our colleagues on part-time appointments. We do not have a precisely representative national sample from which to estimate typical per-course pay rates. And we cannot say with absolute certainty what proportion of faculty members in part-time appointments would prefer to be in full-time tenuretrack or tenured positions. But the data we do have make it abundantly clear that part-time faculty members are paid unacceptably low wages, and the extent of this inequity—together with the situation of full-time non-tenure-track colleagues described in the next section—forms a very real (even if still hidden from public view) multi-tier academic labor structure. It’s an inequity that cannot be allowed to stand.
Full-Time Non-Tenure-Track Faculty
This section presents an entirely new analysis of data from the 2010 CAW survey, which also garnered responses from more than 7,500 full-time faculty members employed in positions off the tenure track. We should begin with two caveats: first, that the analysis in this section does not constitute a report from the coalition; and second, that the respondents to the CAW survey do not form a fully representative sample of all full-time non-tenure-track faculty members nationwide. Even so, these data provide an important new source of information focused specifically on the compensation and working conditions of our colleagues working off the tenure track. (The lead author of this report was a member of the working group that developed and carried out the CAW survey and takes responsibility for any shortcomings in the data.)
As noted in table C, about 85 percent (6,418) of the full-time non-tenure-track respondents to the 2010 CAW survey provided information on their rate of pay. When standardized to an academic-year basis, the overall median salary reported by these individuals in 2010 was $47,500. A majority of the respondents held a full-time position in a public institution, with the largest group employed at public doctoral or research universities.3 The salaries reported in this sector were below the overall median for the group. Salaries at private institutions were generally higher than those at public institutions in the same category, as has been the case for the overall full-time faculty salaries reported in the AAUP survey for many years (see the section on increasing public-private salary differentials below). But contrary to the pattern found in AAUP data for full-time faculty members overall, among CAW non-tenure-track respondents salaries were not necessarily higher in universities than at community colleges. Some caution is required in interpreting differences between some of the cells of table C, however, as they represent the responses of only a few faculty members.
Another factor confounding the interpretation of the salary data shown in table C is the lack of a distinction by academic rank. The CAW survey, unfortunately, did not ask for academic rank from full-time non-tenure-track respondents, and a comparison with AAUP data indicates that this is a significant deficiency. The annual AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey collects fulltime salary data by rank and gender. It also collects counts of faculty members by rank, gender, and tenure status; however, it does not collect salary data by tenure status. The median academic-year salary for non-tenure-track respondents to the 2010 CAW survey was $47,500, very close to the 2010–11 average for the instructor rank ($47,143) in the AAUP’s survey. These similar results conceal differences, however. To provide context, we looked at the distribution by rank of full-time non-tenuretrack faculty members in the 2010–11 AAUP survey. There were just over ninety-six thousand non-tenure-track faculty members reported that year, distributed through all the faculty ranks. Nearly half were in what might be considered the “typical” nontenure- track ranks of lecturer and instructor, but 40 percent were in what are commonly presumed tenure-track ranks (assistant, associate, and full professor). More than one in five (21 percent) assistant professors reported that year were employed off the tenure track. And only a small proportion of these non-tenure-track colleagues, about 16 percent, were employed at institutions that did not grant tenure. In sum, individuals employed on a contingent basis constitute a significant proportion of the full-time faculty, even at institutions that grant tenure and in ranks that normally lead to consideration for tenure.
The lack of faculty rank in the 2010 CAW data complicates the analysis in two ways. It conceals the true impact on the salary distribution of other variables (some of which are examined in the tables described in this section), and it makes an adjustment of the 2010 data for inflation impractical. The AAUP data indicate that salaries at the various ranks have increased at different rates between 2010–11 and 2012–13, rendering any overall inflation factor applied to non-tenure-track salaries inaccurate. But without salary by tenure status in the AAUP data, a specific non-tenure-track inflation rate also is unavailable. As a consequence, we present tables in this section using unadjusted 2010 CAW data for all non-tenure-track faculty respondents. Readers should bear this in mind when comparing the reported salaries to those at their own institutions.
Table D presents median salaries for a set of disciplinary categories, by type of institution. The disciplines in the table represent the respondent’s area of academic specialization rather than the discipline or disciplines in which instruction was offered. They have been grouped where the original response categories received too few responses. The disciplines captured in these responses reflect the organizations participating in the coalition, and are thus weighted heavily toward the humanities and social sciences. Salaries reported for faculty members in business disciplines are generally higher, as is the case when data for all full-time faculty members are tabulated, but the table does not include several disciplines that typically pay the highest salaries, such as engineering or computer science. The table also indicates that salaries within discipline categories do not necessarily increase with the level of degrees offered. For example, in several of the largest categories, including English, other modern languages, and history, the median salary in doctoral and research universities is lower than it is in associate’s degree colleges.
Table E presents median salaries for full-time nontenure- track faculty members according to two individual characteristics, gender and race or ethnicity. The breakdown by gender indicates that men generally earn higher salaries, except in baccalaureate colleges. (Women are more likely than men to hold non-tenure-track appointments, and more women than men responded to the survey. According to US Department of Education national data for fall 2009, 44 percent of women in full-time faculty positions were off the tenure track, compared with 33 percent of men.) The breakdown of salaries by race or ethnicity does not show a clear pattern of differences. A more detailed statistical analysis that controls simultaneously for the specific contributions of multiple individual and institutional factors to the differences in non-tenure-track salaries would be desirable—and appropriate, given the wide range of variables available in the CAW dataset—but is beyond the scope of this report. We should also note one additional survey item not shown in the tables: about 35 percent of the full-time non-tenure-track respondents reported that they could expect regular salary increases, and the proportion was similar across institutional types. This proportion seems low, although we do not have comparable survey responses from tenure-eligible faculty members for comparison. (The proportion among part-time faculty members documented in the CAW report was 18.8 percent.)4
Table F examines another characteristic of individual nontenure- track respondents, academic qualifications. A majority of all survey respondents providing information about their academic training held a doctorate, but that proportion varies considerably by institutional category. Respondents teaching in associate’s degree colleges most commonly held a master’s degree, the generally accepted qualification for the undergraduate teaching that comprises nearly all of the workload in those colleges. Slightly more than a quarter of these respondents held a doctorate, and 12 percent had completed other degrees that would be considered “terminal” (for example, an MFA, MLS, JD, or MBA). By contrast, 56 percent of respondents employed at doctoral and research universities held a doctorate, 24 percent a master’s, and 15 percent a terminal professional degree.
The CAW survey data also provide extensive information about the working conditions of full-time non-tenure-track faculty members. Unfortunately, we do not have comparable data on the working conditions of other full-time faculty members, since with the demise of the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty there is no longer a comprehensive national survey that examines faculty working conditions and careers. The CAW data do provide a strong indication, however, that for these respondents a contingent academic position is not simply a “temporary” way station on the road to a tenure-track faculty career. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents who provided their ages were thirty-six or older, and a majority were at least forty-six. Eighty-seven percent had been teaching in a contingent position for at least three years, and 39 percent had been teaching off the tenure track for ten years or more. This finding among the CAW survey respondents confirms the careful analysis of mobility between non-tenure-track and tenure-track positions by Jack Schuster and Martin Finkelstein in their authoritative 2006 book, The American Faculty, based on 1998 data: “The preliminary evidence suggests that for the most part these fixed-term full-time appointments seem to constitute a discernibly different career track from that of traditional, tenure-eligible appointments.”5
Perhaps the most significant characteristic of full-time nontenure- track employment is that it extends only for a specified number of semesters or years; these positions are frequently referred to as “term” or “contract” appointments. Respondents to the survey were asked the length of their current appointment: one year was by far the most common period, reported by 57 percent. Three years was the second most common length of appointment (17 percent), and 9 percent of respondents were employed only for a single term. An additional 6 percent reported five-year appointments, and 4 percent were employed for longer terms. Appointments of less than a year (covering only one quarter or semester) were far more common in associate’s degree colleges, where they were reported by a quarter of respondents. In doctoral and research universities, three-year appointments were more frequently reported than elsewhere. But for the majority of non-tenure-track faculty members, there is no formal guarantee of job security beyond the current academic year. Although we know from anecdotal reports that “one-year” appointments are frequently renewed year after year, it is the lack of a longer-term commitment by the employing institution that makes these appointments contingent and that constrains the academic freedom and undermines the effectiveness of the individuals holding them.
Survey respondents were asked about the mode of instruction employed in the courses they were teaching in fall 2010, and a large majority (77 percent) taught only on-site courses, as opposed to those offered at a distance or with both on-site and distance components.6 However, respondents from associate’s degree colleges were more than twice as likely to teach at least some courses where they were not on site with their students. (Owing to the difficulty in defining “main” versus “branch” campus or “satellite” locations, the questionnaire did not pursue this distinction.)
The CAW questionnaire also collected detailed information about the number and level of courses that non-tenure-track respondents taught, only a portion of which is tabulated here. The largest numbers of respondents were teaching two, three, or four courses during the fall 2010 term in which the survey was conducted. As would be expected, the teaching load varied by institution type. Nearly half of respondents from associate’s degree colleges were teaching five courses or more, a far higher proportion than in other categories of institutions. The most common teaching load in baccalaureate colleges and doctoral and research universities was three courses, while four courses was the teaching load reported most frequently by respondents at master’s degree universities.
A frequent criticism regarding the overuse of contingent appointments is that the instructors with the lowest levels of institutional support (and academic freedom protections) bear the brunt of undergraduate teaching, which forms the core of the academic enterprise. This translates into a less rich academic experience for those students who are still at an early stage in developing their interests and the skills of independent inquiry. Analysis of the CAW data regarding the level of courses full-time non-tenure-track respondents taught provides some support for this criticism. The level of courses taught by respondents from associate’s degree colleges is obviously constrained by the courses that are offered there, but the most common response from non-tenure-track faculty members across all categories of institutions, with the exception of baccalaureate colleges, was that they taught only lower-division undergraduate courses. In fact, the proportion of respondents who taught exclusively lower-division undergraduate or developmental (precollegiate) courses was 88 percent in associate’s colleges and 38 percent in other institutional categories combined.
We cannot emphasize enough that the threat to academic freedom and to the quality of instruction from the increasing use of contingent appointments is rooted in the conditions of employment in those positions, not in any shortcomings of the individuals who hold the appointments. As last year’s reports from CAW and the Center for the Future of Higher Education document with regard to part-time appointments, a key challenge facing contingent faculty members is a lack of institutional support. Table G presents tabulations for four of the 2010 CAW survey items measuring the institutional support for instruction provided to full-time non-tenure-track respondents.
The first item listed, “participation in departmental meetings,” refers simultaneously to two aspects of faculty work: teaching and governance. Departmental meetings are the locus for discussions and decisions about curriculum, consideration of pedagogical and student affairs issues, dissemination of information about instructional technology and other aspects of institutional operations, and participation in financial decision making. Contingent faculty members who are excluded from participation in such meetings are less able to convey to their students and advisees how various aspects of the curriculum relate to one another, are at a disadvantage in using a whole array of instructional resources, and may be unaware of funds available for classroom instruction or professional development. Their tenure-eligible colleagues are also missing the perspective that contingent faculty members could bring to these discussions. Unfortunately, as the AAUP report on inclusion in governance referenced above describes, “the participation in institutional and departmental governance of faculty holding contingent appointments is uneven, with some institutions encouraging it, some allowing it, and some barring it.” A large majority of the full-time non-tenure-track respondents to the CAW survey reported that they were included in departmental meetings; there is no apparent reason why such participation should not be open to all.
Slightly more than half of the survey respondents indicated that they could obtain funding for travel to professional meetings. Such travel is a necessary part of keeping current with developments in a faculty member’s discipline and can therefore be expected to have a direct impact on teaching and research. The proportion of full-time non-tenure-track colleagues eligible for travel support was noticeably higher at baccalaureate colleges. With regard to support for research specifically, only 41 percent of respondents reported that they would receive institutional support in submitting proposals for research funding. This proportion was lower in associate’s degree colleges, where research is frequently considered a secondary aspect of faculty work, but reached a high of only 45 percent at baccalaureate colleges—an indication that non-tenure-track faculty members are expected to focus almost entirely on teaching. Such an approach to faculty work is short-sighted, for as the 2010 AAUP report Tenure and Teaching-Intensive Appointments argues, “Professional development and research activities support strong teaching, and a robust system of shared governance depends upon the participation of all faculty, so even teaching-intensive [appointments that have been converted into] tenure-eligible positions should include service and appropriate forms of engagement in research or the scholarship of teaching.”
The final item presented in table G is especially disheartening. Only 3 percent of the full-time non-tenure-track survey respondents reported that they would receive priority consideration for tenure-track openings at their current institutions. Differences in the proportion among the institutional categories are minuscule. Essentially, these respondents are describing a situation in which they are appropriately qualified and currently doing much of the work of tenure-track colleagues but are not credited with this experience when a tenure-track position becomes available in their own department. As many of our non-tenure-track colleagues reported in extended comments submitted as part of the CAW survey, this situation typifies the basic lack of respect they experience on a daily basis.
The CAW survey also asked respondents about benefits they receive as part of their total compensation, and most were receiving benefits. In completing the most basic questionnaire item regarding benefits, about 89 percent of respondents reported receiving health-care benefits, either alone or in combination with retirement or other benefits. Only 6 percent of these respondents reported receiving no benefits. The most basic questionnaire item, however, does not tell us of the extent of these benefits or who bore the costs.
The analysis presented in this section touches on only a few aspects of the working conditions of full-time non-tenure-track faculty members. In terms of pay and benefits, their situation superficially resembles that of “junior” faculty colleagues. But the fundamental distinction lies in the non-tenure-track status itself. With fixed-term appointments, limited participation in the full range of faculty work, and insufficient support from their institutions, these full-time non-tenure-track colleagues effectively constitute a second tier of the academic labor structure. (And it has become almost impossible to deny that part-time faculty members inhabit an even further undermined third tier in this structure.) We do not have all the data necessary to make a precise estimate of the impact of this second-tier status on the quality of instruction and academic inquiry. We need to continue advocating for the collection of more and better data. But even absent “empirical certainty,” the need for advocacy on behalf of and in concert with our non-tenure-track colleagues is clear. Unless we can stem and reverse the shift toward an “academic precariat,” the vital contribution of higher education as a social good is imperiled.
The CAW data include more specific details of salary and benefits, as well as additional information about aspects of working conditions and access to institutional resources. They also include information on academics working in other categories of contingent employment: graduate employees in teaching and research, postdoctoral fellows, and non-tenuretrack researchers, albeit with relatively small respondent pools. Researchers who are interested in using these data should contact the coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama stated that “our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs,” and he spoke of the educational investments necessary to achieve that goal, beginning with preschool and ending with college. The president noted that in order to obtain a good job and a middle-class income, most people would need some higher education, and he declared that “skyrocketing tuitions” are reducing access to college for some while saddling others with unsustainable debt.
Remarkably, at the same time the president is emphasizing the need to invest in higher education to guarantee the availability of good jobs and workers who can fill them, most state budgets reveal a continued trend of disinvestment from the sector through reductions in their annual appropriations for higher education, which historically have been the single largest revenue source for most public colleges and universities. The December 2012 report from the Delta Cost Project, College Spending in a Turbulent Decade, noted that “for the first time in higher education, net tuition brought in more revenue than did state and local appropriations at the average public research and master’s institutions.” The report analyzed institutional revenue data collected by the US Department of Education and found that the level of state and local appropriations declined sharply in fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which data were available. It concluded that “these declines . . . resulted in the lowest per-student state and local funding in the decade across all types of public institutions.”7
In table H we examine changes in state-by-state appropriations for higher education, adjusted for inflation, between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2013. While there are wide variations, some of which are related to the differential impact of the Great Recession across the nation, most states made steep cuts. Arizona made the largest cuts, reducing funding for higher education by 42 percent. New Hampshire and Louisiana were second and third among the states with the largest cutbacks in funding. By contrast, some states benefiting from improving conditions in the energy industry (Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming) were willing and able to increase their funding for higher education substantially between 2008 and 2013. Texas, another energy state and one with an enormous public higher education sector, chose a different path, allocating 7.4 percent less funding during this time period. The total reduction in funding for all fifty states combined was 18.4 percent.
The period covered by the table includes the Great Recession and the weak economic recovery that has followed. Most states rely on sales taxes and taxes on business income for a substantial portion of their revenues, and consequently experience reductions in receipts during recessions because consumers make fewer purchases and businesses have lower profits. It is possible to examine whether cutbacks in higher education funding exceed those that are solely recession-related by examining changes in state appropriations per $1,000 of state personal income. This is the second column of table H.
For example, in fiscal year 2008 Arizona budgeted $6.10 to higher education for each $1,000 in personal income earned by residents of the state. However, by fiscal year 2013 Arizona was allocating just $3.57 per $1,000 of personal income—a reduction of 41.5 percent when controlling for the change in personal income. By contrast, Illinois and Wyoming both provided double-digit percentage increases in their higher education appropriations per $1,000 in personal income, meaning that higher education funding grew faster than personal income during the period. North Dakota represents an entirely different case. Its booming economy has grown substantially, so although its real appropriations for higher education increased significantly, funding for higher education didn’t increase proportionately to the increase in personal income within the state. Take a look at table H to see how your state stacked up, and use those figures as evidence in advocating for a restoration of higher education funding.
Much of the tuition price increase in public higher education over the last several years has been a direct consequence of reductions in state appropriations. As states have abdicated their responsibility for ensuring access to postsecondary education, students and their families have been forced to bear more of the costs in the form of higher tuition prices. Because good jobs migrate to the locations with the best-educated workforces, states such as Arizona, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and California may be retarding their future rates of growth for decades to come.
Public-Private Salary Differences
The declining state appropriations for higher education have already had consequences. As we documented in this report last year, increases in faculty salaries are not the reason for rapid tuition price increases during the last decade. Indeed, average fulltime faculty salaries, adjusted for inflation, actually decreased at public master’s-granting institutions and community colleges and increased by less than 1 percent at public doctoral universities and baccalaureate colleges over the decade. Public colleges and universities, reeling from immediate and long-term cutbacks in their state funding, have sought to reduce spending on the backs of their students, increasingly substituting lower-paid contingent faculty members for more fairly paid tenure-track faculty members. Further budget tightening has come in the form of lower starting salaries and smaller annual salary increases for faculty members employed in the public sector, which has led to a widening salary disadvantage for the 70 percent of faculty members who work there.
The gap between public- and private-sector salaries has been a regular topic of this report. We thought it would be useful to present the most recent data in a slightly different way, one that we hope is easily understandable. Figures 2 through 4 show how much less faculty members in the public sector are earning, by academic rank and institutional category, focusing on the last seven years. The public-sector disadvantage is greatest at the full professor rank, ranging from 17 percent at master’s universities to 35 percent at doctoral universities. The range of disparity for associate professors is 10 to 23 percent, and that among assistant professors is 7 to 24 percent. The pattern by institutional category is similar for all three ranks, with faculty members in doctoral universities lagging quite a bit further behind than those in master’s universities or baccalaureate colleges.
It’s noteworthy that the salary disadvantage for public-sector faculty members increased beginning in 2010–11, after the recession in the national economy was technically over. Continued large and rising differentials in faculty salaries between public and private colleges and universities reflect the reductions in state support for higher education described above.
It’s important to bear in mind that these figures represent the average salary disadvantage for a public-sector faculty member in a given year. As noted in the first section of this report, the average salary increase in public institutions was also lower this year, and that has been true for many years. So for the individual, the earnings deficiency accumulates over the course of a career. The pipelines into academic positions are long, ranging through college and graduate school and sometimes through postdoctoral fellowships or visiting assistant professor positions. But higher education is a service industry, and as such its labor resources are among the most valuable on campus. Colleges and universities that ignore this point and attempt to underpay their faculty for the work they perform will increasingly confront labor markets where it is difficult to hire and retain the best faculty and where talented graduate students who could have been great faculty members choose nonacademic careers instead.
The salary disadvantage experienced by faculty members at public colleges and universities, and the continued growth in exploitative contingent employment practices, are thus matters of significant public policy. The disinvestment from fully supported and compensated faculty positions in the public sector means that the majority of students will be deprived of the most engaged instructors and mentors. Our elected leaders consistently proclaim that investing in higher education is a state and national imperative, yet the data on state appropriations and public-private faculty salary disparities belie these proclamations. Public officials need to hear from their constituents about the value of higher education, and, importantly, about the critical role of faculty members in providing that education.
We encourage all of our readers to get involved, take action, and “spread the news.”
The presentation of full-time faculty salary data in this report would not have been possible without data supplied by administrative offices of colleges and universities across the country. The data collection is carried out entirely by the AAUP Research Office, and research assistant Sam Dunietz played a key role in ensuring that the data submitted are as accurate as possible. Respondents to the survey know him as a helpful and courteous voice on the other end of the telephone, or perhaps by means of an e-mail exchange. We join our colleagues in expressing our gratitude to Sam for his excellent work. We also acknowledge the support and leadership of the organizations in the Coalition on the Academic Workforce and especially those individuals on the CAW survey workgroup, without whose efforts our knowledge of the working conditions faced by our colleagues in contingent appointments would be immeasurably weaker.
1. A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members (Coalition on the Academic Workforce, 2012), http://www.academicworkforce.org/CAW_portrait_2012.pdf.
2. Ibid., 48, table 38.
3. The institutional categories in tables C through G are for each respondent’s full-time academic employer. Some respondents also taught additional courses elsewhere, but compensation, working conditions, and benefits for those institutions are not included in the analysis presented here.
4. Portrait of Part-Time Faculty, 48, table 38.
5. Jack H. Schuster and Martin J. Finkelstein, The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 222; emphasis in the original.
6. The CAW questionnaire used the label “distance”; we can infer that in most cases this means an online course or course component.
7. Donna M. Desrochers and Rita J. Kirshstein, College Spending in a Turbulent Decade: Findings from the Delta Cost Project (Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research, 2012), 3, http://www.deltacostproject.org/pdfs/Delta-Cost-College-Spending-In-A-Tu....