Professor pay fell 5 percent this year, counting inflation

Full-time faculty salaries increased 2 percent this academic year over last, according to annual faculty compensation data gathered by the American Association of University Professors. This is one of the smallest year-over-year increases the AAUP has recorded since it began tracking the measure in 1972—and that’s before factoring in this year’s surging inflation.

Adjusted for inflation, real average salaries decreased 5 percent year over year, representing the greatest decrease in real-wage growth seen since 1979–80, according to the AAUP. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, or CPI-U, increased 7 percent in 2021 and 12.5 percent in 1979, the AAUP said in a preliminary analysis of its data.

The association plans on releasing a much more detailed analysis of its full-time and part-time faculty salary survey data later this year, in the form of its “Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession.” Glenn Colby, senior research officer at the AAUP, said the forthcoming report will be shaped by input from AAUP economics and higher education finance experts, and it will interpret this year’s survey results “in the context of the current US economy. Inflation is hitting 40-year highs, and the annual report will discuss key areas to watch as colleges and universities rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Data collection for this year’s survey ended last month, and the AAUP wanted to release the verified, institution-level data without delay, as institutions are currently planning their budgets for the next year and rely on the annual survey for benchmarking purposes. Some 900 US colleges and universities shared with the AAUP employment data for some 370,000 full-time and 90,000 part-time faculty members, as well as senior administrators at some 500 institutions.

Participating institutions are relatively representative of the US higher education landscape, at 280 major research universities, 320 regional universities, 160 arts liberal colleges, 100 community colleges and 170 minority-serving institutions.

Average Pay

Across all institution types, full professors made $143,823 this year, on average. Associates made $97,724, and assistants made $85,063. Instructors made $62,874, and lecturers made $69,499. Doctoral institutions, especially private, independent ones, tended to pay more than these averages. (AAUP does not analyze professor pay by field, unlike some other data sources.)

Continuing a long-term trend, female professors were paid less than male professors, on average. Across institution types, women at the full professor rank made $131,028 this year, on average, while male full professors made $150,596. This discrepancy exists at the early-career assistant professor level, as well, with male assistant professors making $89,533 and women making $81,181. And, as usual, professors working in New England, the Middle Atlantic and on the Pacific Coast made more than their peers working in other parts of the country.

The average per-course pay for adjuncts is between about $5,000 and $3,000, depending on institution type. Lowest per-course pay recorded in an institution-level appendix is ​​$372, for an underenrolled class; according to the AAUP, some institutions reported offering adjuncts reduced pay to teach an underenrolled course instead of canceling it. Some 64 percent of institutions that reported adjunct compensation data said they contribute nothing to these part-time instructors’ retirement benefits. The rate was similar for institutional contributions to adjunct medical benefits.

The average president’s salary at a doctoral university, meanwhile, is $602,854. At baccalaureate institutions, average presidential pay is $349,411. At associate’s degree–level colleges, average presidential pay is between $245,000 and $300,000.

Forty-year-high inflation rates aren’t just top of mind for Colby and his colleagues at the AAUP. The College and University Professional Association–Human Resources is releasing its own faculty, staff and administrator salary data later this month, and its director of research, Jacqueline Bichsel, said that report will compare annual salary increases to the inflation rate.

“Inflation was nearly 7 percent for the period corresponding to our latest data effective date,” Bichsel said, “so of course salary increases for any sector do not even approach that.”

The AAUP says its survey data complement the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, as it collects not only full-time faculty salary data by rank, gender and contract length, but also data on full-time faculty benefits, continuing faculty members, key administrative salaries and salary and benefits for adjunct faculty members paid by the course (the AAUP’s continent faculty data lag 12 months, so that the information from a full academic year can be included).

Where Professors Make the Most

Due to reader interest, Inside Higher Ed typically highlights the highest-paying institutions included in AAUP’s report. These figures are not meant to be representative of average faculty pay, and certainly not average per-course pay for adjuncts; Indeed, many institutions don’t release part-time faculty pay to the AAUP.

That said, here are the highest-paying individual institutions this year, by category.

Top Average Salaries for Full Professors at Private Doctoral Universities, 2021–22

Columbia University

$288,000

Stanford University

$269,100

Princeton University

$266,100

Harvard University

$262,700

University of Chicago

$260,200

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

$255,600

University of Pennsylvania*

$246,300

Yale University

$243,700

New York University

$242,500

Dartmouth College

$234,600

Top Average Salaries for Full Professors at Public Doctoral Universities, 2021–22

University of California, Los Angeles

$240,300

University of California, Berkeley

$222,500

University of California, Santa Barbara

$209,600

University of California, San Diego

$203,900

Colorado School of Mines

$199,500

Rutgers University at Newark

$195,100

University of Virginia

$194,900

University of California, Irvine

$194,400

University of Texas at Austin

$194,200

New Jersey Institute of Technology

$193,700

Top Average Salaries for Full Professors at Liberal Arts Colleges, 2021–22

Barnard College

$183,100

Claremont McKenna College

$175,000

University of Richmond

$165,400

Pomona College

$163,200

Amherst College

$163,000

Wesleyan University

$160,400

Wellesley College

$160,100

Harvey Mudd College

$156,800

Swarthmore College

$156,300

Williams College

$155,900

Top Average Salaries for Assistant Professors at Colleges and Universities, 2021–22

Columbia University

$155,600

Harvard University

$149,700

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

$148,400

University of Pennsylvania*

$147,900

Babson College

$146,300

Stanford University

$140,300

California Institute of Technology

$140,300

Bentley University

$134,600

University of Chicago

$132,100

New York Institute of Technology

$131,300

*The University of Pennsylvania excluded non-tenure-track faculty members from the data reported to AAUP.

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