Faculty Salaries Stagnant in 1992-93

AHA Staff, November 1993

Studies released earlier this year by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA) indicate little or no growth in faculty salaries in 1992–93. AAUP reports that the average salary of faculty increased nominally by 2.5 percent in 1992–93, but in real dollars (adjusted for inflation) declined in 1992–93 by 0.4 percent, only the second time that faculty salaries have failed to keep up with inflation in the past decade. CUPA does not report a decline in real dollars in faculty salaries, but it does not provide any reason for optimism. At best, the CUPA data present a mixed picture: while faculty salaries at private colleges and universities grew at a lower rate in 1992–93 than in 1991–92 (3.5 percent compared to 4.2), salaries at public institutions actually increased at a greater rate in 1992–93 (4.8 percent compared to 4.3). CUPA's discipline-specific data indicates a similar pattern for history faculty salaries. Both studies conclude that campuses are feeling the impact of the nation's current economic problems and that faculty are suffering from budget cuts in higher education.

Based on a survey of 2,269 institutions, the AAUP study reports that the average salary level for all faculty increased by 2.5 percent in 1992–93, compared to 3.5 percent in 1991–92. The former is the smallest nominal unadjusted increase in more than twenty years. Moreover, that growth was so meager that it translated into a decline of 0.4 percent in real dollars, despite the fact that inflation actually slowed in 1992–93 (from 3.1 percent to 2.9 percent). That constituted only the second decline in real salary levels since 1980–81, when the downward spiral of the 1970s ended, and contrasts with the previous year (1991–92), when the slowing of inflation resulted in real growth of 0.4 percent. Data on continuing faculty—those who remained in place for two adjacent academic years—is only somewhat more favorable, with real growth of 0.7 percent and unadjusted growth of 3.6 percent, the lowest in twenty-one years. The picture also changes when benefits are added in. Even during the recession, the cost of benefits has increased such that real compensation has grown by 1 percent per year, driving up total labor costs even as salaries stagnate.

Those overall figures obscure the extent to which the recession has hit some sectors worse than others. AAUP's salary data by affiliation of the colleges and universities surveyed—public, private-independent, and church-related—reveals a striking disparity in growth rates. In 1992–93 salaries increased by 3.8 percent at private-independent institutions and by 4.2 percent at church-related institutions—lower than in 1991–92 but still greater than inflation. But at the same time, salaries at public institutions rose by only 1.9 percent, substantially less than the 2.9 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index, and salaries at nearly 43 percent of those institutions rose by less than 1 percent. This is particularly troubling since, according to AAUP, 70 percent of faculty are employed at public institutions. The impact of state budget crises cannot be overstated.

Finally, AAUP data indicate that gender differences persist in faculty salaries. Although the percentage of faculty positions held by women has increased dramatically over the past decade (from 23.6 percent in 1982–83 to 29.7 in 1992–93), women's salaries as a percentage of men's have not. In fact, women earned 89 percent of what their male colleagues earned in 1982-83 but only 88.2 percent in 1992-93. AAUP does not provide discipline-specific data on this, but a comparison of data from the National Research Council indicates basically the same thing: in 1979, women historians in colleges and universities earned 84.5 percent of that earned by male colleagues, while women in 1989 (the most recent year for which data is available) earned an average of 84.3 percent of that earned by men.

Although CUPA does not include as many institutions in its surveys (only 756) and focuses on four-year colleges, it collects more detailed data that make it possible to compare salaries for all faculty with those in specific disciplines. According to CUPA's surveys of private and public colleges and universities, faculty salaries in all disciplines increased by an average of 4.2 percent in 1992–93 (not adjusted for inflation), essentially the same as in 1991–92 and still below that reported in 1990–91 (6 percent). Salary figures broken down by type of institution (public or private) reveal a somewhat different picture (see the accompanying table). Salaries rose on average by only 3.5 percent in private colleges and universities, but increased by 4.8 percent in their public counterparts, just the opposite of what AAUP reported for the same period. The data are somewhat deceiving, since salaries rose by only 0.16 percent at non–collective-bargaining public institutions (57 percent of those participating in the survey), compared to 8 percent at those with collective bargaining. In other words, commitments made through collective-bargaining contracts resulted in increased salaries at some public institutions despite declining state revenues. Overall, faculty at collective-bargaining institutions earned 19 percent more; history faculty at those institutions averaged 27.2 percent more than their counterparts elsewhere, earning $51,567 compared to $40,551. This gap has widened significantly in recent years; CUPA reported a difference of only 16.9 percent in 1990–91 and 18.9 in 1991–92.

The average salary for history faculty across ranks increased in 1992–93 by 3.8 percent in both private and public institutions—slightly ahead of that for all faculty in private colleges and universities but less than that for their public counterparts. While the difference between history salaries and salaries overall was small, the fact that history salaries remained above average is important. According to CUPA, historians on average were paid better in 1992–93 than colleagues in, for example, geography, psychology, sociology, philosophy and religion, foreign languages, literature, mathematics, and education.

But even though the average history salary for all ranks is greater than that for all faculty, the average salary by rank for history faculty remained below that of faculty in general in every category but instructor at private institutions. History faculty salaries look better in aggregate than by rank because the high percentage of historians at higher ranks skews the average; few other disciplines have a larger proportion of tenured faculty.

The larger average salary for history instructors at private colleges and universities is curious—the result of an unusually large percentage increase in 1992–93 (15.7 percent), larger even than the rather sizeable increase for instructors overall (7.4 percent). This contrasts sharply with a decline in the average salary for history instructors at public institutions (-3.8 percent)—the only nominal decrease in the discipline—and the modest .8 percent increase for all instructors at those institutions, the lowest level of growth reported for 1992-93. The conventional wisdom is that an increase in introductory level salaries indicates an increase in demand, but the only hint of improvement in the job market for historians is that the number of listings in the Employment Information section of Perspectives has declined this year by a smaller percentage than last year—7.1 percent compared to 17.8 percent for the September through November issues.

For more information, consult "The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 1992–1993," Academe (AAUP), March–April 1993; 1992–93 National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Private Colleges and Universities (Washington, D.C.: CUPA, 1993); 1992–93 National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Public Colleges and Universities (Washington, D.C.: CUPA, 1993). Special studies and tabulations can be obtained through the sponsoring organizations. Contact the AAUP, 1012 14th Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 737-5900; and CUPA, 1233 20th Street, NW, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 429-0311.