MU pay disparity found

Assistant professors earn less than other UM System campuses.
Friday, April 13, 2007 | 1:02 a.m. CDT; updated 6:49 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Full professors at MU earn as much as their peers at comparable research universities, but salaries for assistant professors are significantly lower than the average and below the other three University of Missouri System campuses, according to a report issued Thursday by the American Association of University Professors.

Nationwide, salaries for all full-time faculty are catching up with inflation for the first time in three years. But the AAUP’s annual report continues to document financial inequality in higher education and urges universities to find ways to boost faculty salaries.


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According to the report, 2006-2007 was the best in years for most full-time faculty members around the country: Faculty salaries overall climbed 3.8 percent. Adjusted for inflation, a full-time faculty member’s salary rose by 1.3 percent.

At MU, 60 percent of full-time professors received salaries higher than the national average. Lower-ranking professors at MU are not keeping pace with their peers elsewhere, however. Four out of five associate professors nationwide are paid more than MU’s associate professors; 80 percent of assistant professors around the country earn more than MU’s assistant professors. In the Big 12 region, only one school — Kansas State — pays its assistant professors less than MU.

“I would be very concerned about the fact that the average salary for assistant professors is so low,” said John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the AAUP. “I would think that they would have some difficulty in attracting new faculty.”

Rex Campbell, professor of rural sociology and chairman of the MU Faculty Council, said some faculty members are subject to a loyalty tax — meaning the longer they stay at MU, the less likely it is that their pay will keep pace with the demands of new hires.

“It’s certainly true that if we go after a star, we have to go way above our average person’s salary to be able to attract them. As we go out and recruit people, we have to keep up with market demand,” Campbell said.

MU provost Brian Foster said that while MU has been able to attract some good professors, the loyalty tax has cost the university some equally valuable middle-level faculty. That’s a problem, Foster said.

“It’s not unusual these days to see middle-level faculty get offers from other places that are much, much higher than salaries here,” Foster said. “The people who get those offers are the ones we most want to keep.”

Universities increasingly rely on endowment income to finance faculty salaries, the AAUP study found. Two dozen public universities, including MU, have launched fundraising campaigns of at least $1 billion to offset decreases in state appropriations. MU’s “For All We Call Mizzou” campaign has raised $785 million since 2000. Beth Hammock, of MU’s Campaign Administration and Donor Relations, said the money has gone toward student scholarships and newly-endowed positions.

Campbell said that dipping into the principle of MU’s endowment for salary increases would be a “short-term solution and a long-term negative policy. You don’t want to use that,” he said. “You’re going to use that principle very quickly.”

Curtis said the discouraging part is that institutions with large endowments already have more money to increase salaries. Meanwhile, schools with shorter purse strings are having difficulty catching up to their peers, Curtis said.

Last week, the UM System Board of Curators unanimously voted to cut 1 percent from program costs on each campus. The savings to the system — estimated at about $9 million — will go toward boosting faculty salaries. Foster said whether that money will be directed toward assistant professors will depend on how much money state lawmakers appropriate for higher education this year.

Campbell acknowledged that MU might be losing qualified faculty to private institutions, whose compensation packages, according to the AAUP, are growing faster than those of public universities. “It is a question as we recruit stars,” he said. “If they can go places, such as Wash. U., and if they receive an offer that’s 50 percent more, well we’re not going to get them. And I wouldn’t blame them for doing that.”

While faculty salaries have struggled to keep pace with inflation, top-ranking administrators have seen their salaries rise at a much greater rate. From 1996 to 2006, the inflation-adjusted salaries of faculty members increased 5 percent compared to a 35 percent increase for chancellors and presidents. The average annual salary of a president at a public doctoral institution is $316,000, Curtis said.

Last week, curators approved a salary package of $382,000 for interim system president Gordon Lamb; outgoing president Elson Floyd, whose compensation package at MU was worth $436,000, will earn $600,000 a year at his new position, as head of Washington State University.

Curtis said the association’s findings reflect a decades-long trend in higher-education. He fears that, ultimately, it is the students who lose when faculty are not adequately compensated.

“The concern is that we will no longer have a system of higher education where everyone can count on getting a quality education,” he said.

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