Home / General / The corporatization of the university, faculty salaries edition

The corporatization of the university, faculty salaries edition


One of the systemic effects of the pandemic is that it gave a lot of people a handy excuse to do things they very much wanted to do anyway:

Average full-time faculty salaries decreased by 5 percent in the 2021-22 academic year when adjusted for inflation, the largest single-year drop in the 50 years that the American Association of University Professors has tracked academic wages.

The AAUP’s latest faculty-compensation survey, which was released on Wednesday as part of its annual report on the state of the profession, says that full-time faculty salaries in 2021-22 were 2 percent higher — essentially flat — than in 2020-21. But that actually was a big pay cut in real terms. Adjusted for inflation, faculty salaries fell at 95 percent of institutions that were surveyed in both 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Consider that the average salary of full-time instructional faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions had been, prior to the pandemic, nearly flat over the previous half century:

1970-71: $84,192

2020-21: $91,908

This is in 2020-21 dollars.

Over this same time frame, the wages of the average American worker have gone up by 32%.

But this is actually a massive understatement regarding what’s happened to faculty salaries, at least if you consider the people who do the majority of the teaching in American higher education to be “faculty.” That’s because over this same time frame, the percentage of faculty who are full-time has dropped from 80% to 55%, and of course part-time contingent faculty are paid almost nothing:

Adjunct faculty members, the group that the AAUP says was hardest hit by pandemic-related institutional turmoil, were paid an average of $3,843 per three-credit course section in 2020-21 — ranging from $2,979 at public two-year colleges to $5,557 at public doctoral universities.

This means that over the past half century faculty salaries at American colleges and universities have declined drastically.

The rationale for all this from the university administrative class is unending whinging about “cuts in funding” for higher ed in America. About that:

Total increase in per student revenue at American colleges and universities during the New Gilded Age (1978-2018): 111.9%.

Over this same time frame, the compensation for university presidents has tripled in real terms, so this statistic right here isn’t exactly shocking:

For college presidents, meanwhile, salaries increased by 7 percent in 2021-22, keeping pace with the rate of inflation.

Given what’s happened to upper administrative comp over the past four decades, I suppose that counts as a heroic sacrifice.

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