Publication Date

February 1, 1988

Perspectives Section


Salary Update: According to reports from the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), salaries for college and university faculty increased by nearly 6 percent in the 1986-87 academic year. When coupled with the lower inflation rate, this translates into the sixth consecutive annual increase in real salary levels.

The CUPA 1986–87 National Faculty Salary Survey indicates slightly more modest average increases for historians: 5.4 percent for those in private institutions and 4.9 percent in public. The average increase for historians in all institutions is 5.2 percent, the same as for the 1985–86 academic year. Interestingly, private salary levels rose in 1986–87 at a higher rate than those of public institutions—just the opposite of the previous year’s rates. But the increase for historians in private institutions was still less than that for their colleagues in other fields, who had some catching up to do after 1985–86, when the increase for historians was almost double that for all others. In public institutions, the salaries of historians continue to lag slightly behind those in other fields. The 1986–87 figures indicate lower increases in both salary groups, with the gap narrowing from 1.1 percent to .4 percent.

Comparable shifts can be found in the data by rank. Particularly striking is the increase in salaries for new assistant professors in private institutions. The 5.9 percent increase reported for 1986–87 is a significant improvement over the 2.2 percent increase the previous year, the lowest average increase for any rank that year. But salaries for the same rank in public institutions increased by a smaller percentage in 1986–87 than in the previous year, when salaries were raised by 9.6 percent, the highest reported that year.

According to the AAUP figures, which differ slightly from the CUPA data due to different sources, overall income for college and university faculty rose by 5.9 percent in 1986–87, down from the previous two years. But when the lower rate of inflation is taken into account, the figures look better. In real terms, faculty salaries rose by 3.9 percent, the largest real increase since the 1970–71 base year. By the end of the 1986–87 academic year, faculty had recovered about half of the loss in real salaries experienced from 1970–71 through 1980–81. Whether the rest of that loss will be made up in coming years depends in large part on the rate of inflation, for the data indicate a steady decline in the rate of monetary salary increases.

The CUPA survey is a useful source for salary statistics by discipline and rank, and more detailed salary information for a smaller batch of institutions can be obtained from CUPA; the AAUP survey gives only very general figures by discipline, but offers statistics by institution and rank. For more information, consult 198687 National Faculty Salary Survey (Washington, DC: CUPA, 1987), v. 1 Private Colleges and Universities and v. 2 Public Colleges and Universities; and “The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession 1986–87,” Academe (AAUP), March–April, 1987.