Expensive Education

 Posted by on 8 December 2003 at 8:49 pm  Uncategorized
Dec 082003

Do you wonder why college is so expensive — despite the fact that many professors earn so little? This article, written by an anthropology professor who looked up his public university’s salaries, sheds some light:

The first thing I realized upon scanning the amounts in the compensation column was that my salary was very much in line with my fellow junior faculty members in the humanities and social sciences. Colleagues in the sciences and engineering earned significantly more.

Secondly, I saw that none of the anthropologists even approached the average salary figure quoted by the president. In my department, the two highest salaries, by far, belonged to the current chairwoman and the previous chairwoman. This pattern seemed to hold true across disciplines. The best-paid faculty members, even taking into consideration their 12-month administrative appointments, were the department heads. The deans earned nearly four times my salary. Despite the university’s emphasis on research and publication, it seemed that the largest financial rewards lay in administration.

Most surprising was a phenomenon known as compression. This refers to the process that shrinks the difference between pay for newly hired faculty members and pay for those who have been at the university for several years and have seen only incremental raises from their starting salaries. Longevity is no guarantee of higher compensation. I had heard senior colleagues grumble about that, but did not appreciate their complaints until I saw the figures.

One tenured member of the department, with 25 years of university employment, earned only $2,000 more a year than I. Another associate professor, who had performed important service roles in the department, earned even less than I did in my second year as a junior faculty member!

He concludes by noting that “no executive-pay scandal exists” in universities — but perhaps we need one.

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