Faculty Salaries Show Modest Growth in 1993–94

AHA Staff, November 1994

Studies released earlier this year by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA) indicate a modest growth in faculty salaries in 1993–94. AAUP reports that in 1993–94 the average salary of faculty increased nominally by 3 percent compared to 2.5 percent the previous year. When adjusted for inflation, that translates into 0.3 percent in real dollars, a small increase but nevertheless better than the 0.4 percent decline (in real dollars) reported in 1992–93. Using a different survey base, CUPA finds that faculty salaries at private colleges and universities increased at a greater rate in 1993–94 than in 1992–93 (5 percent compared to 3.5) but salaries at public institutions grew at a lower rate in 1993–94 (3.5 percent compared to 4.8). That is just the opposite of what was reported last year, when salaries at private institutions failed to keep pace with those at public institutions. Overall, both studies provide reason for optimism as recovery continues from the recession that began in 1990.

Based on a survey of nearly 2,300 institutions, the 1993–94 AAUP study indicates a slight but welcome improvement over the increase reported in 1992–93, the smallest nominal unadjusted increase in over 20 years. The meager nominal increases of the past three years (about 3 percent per year) reflect the impact of the recession and contrast sharply with the 6 percent average growth for the previous eighteen years. As inflation slowed from 2.9 to 2.7 percent in 1993–94, the 3 percent growth translated in real dollars into an increase of 0.4 percent, offsetting the 0.4 percent decline reported for the previous year. Similar fluctuations in the real growth rate in the previous two years (1990–91 and 1991–92) also cancelled each other out, leaving real faculty salaries essentially level for four years. Data on continuing faculty—those who remained in place for two adjacent academic years—is somewhat more favorable, with real growth of 1.5 percent (the highest since 1989–90) and unadjusted growth of 4.2 percent. The picture also changes when benefits are added in. Even during the recession, the cost of benefits has grown more than salary costs: the change in nominal salary levels from 1990–91 to 1993–94 was 9.3 percent, but the nominal cost of benefits increased by 15.7 percent over the same period.

As the recession recedes, differences among sectors have narrowed. Last year's AAUP report indicated a striking disparity in growth rates according to the affiliation of the colleges and universities surveyed (public, private-independent, and church-related). The growth in salaries at public institutions in 1992–93 was half that at private-independent and church-related institutions and less than the increase in the Consumer Price Index. That difference narrowed substantially in 1993–94 to a meager 0.4 percent. Apparently, salaries at public institutions were hit the hardest by the recession and are now beginning to catch up with those at other institutions. In 1991–92, 51 percent of continuing faculty at public institutions received salary increases of under 2 percent, compared to only 18 percent in that category in 1993–94.

Finally, AAUP data indicates that gender differences persist. Although the percentage of faculty positions held by women increased a percentage point in 1993–94 to 30.7 percent, the percentage of women holding full-time tenure-track appointments actually declined from 82 percent in 1992–93 to 80.9 percent in 1993–94.

Although CUPA does not include as many institutions as AAUP in its surveys (only 797) and focuses on four-year colleges, it collects more detailed data that makes 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 4.3 percent in 1993–94 (not adjusted for inflation), essentially the same as in 1991–92 and 1993–94 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 5 percent in private colleges and universities compared to 3.5 percent in their public counterparts, just the opposite of what CUPA reported in 1992–93. The data regarding public institutions is somewhat misleading, however, because it obscures differences between collective bargaining institutions and other public institutions. In 1993–94, faculty at the former earned 22 percent more than their colleagues at the latter. This gap has widened significantly in recent years—CUPA reported a difference of only 13.3 percent in 1990–91 and 14.4 in 1991–92. Obviously, faculty protected by collective-bargaining agreements fare better in the face of recession-induced retrenchment.

The average salary for history faculty across ranks increased in 1993–94 by 3.6 percent in both private and public institutions—slightly behind that for all faculty in private colleges and universities but ahead of 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 1993–94 than colleagues in, for example, sociology, 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. According to the most recent data available from the National Research Council, in only one other discipline in the humanities (speech and theater) is a larger percentage of the faculty tenured. The larger average salary for history instructors at private colleges and universities remains as an artifact of an unusually large percentage increase in 1992–93 (15.7 percent). Even with a substantial decrease of 5.1 percent in 1993–94, the average salary for history instructors remains higher than for all disciplines, which conventional supply-and-demand theory would suggest indicates strong demand within the discipline despite evidence otherwise of a tight job market.

For more information, consult "The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 1993–1994," Academe (AAUP), March–April 1994; 1993–94 National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Private Colleges and Universities (Washington, D.C.: CUPA, 1994); 1993–94 National Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and Rank in Public Colleges and Universities (Washington, D.C.: CUPA, 1994). Special studies and tabulations can be obtained through the sponsoring organizations. Contact the AAUP, 1012 14th St., NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 737-5900; and CUPA, 1233 20th St., NW, Suite 301, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 429-0311.