Financial Inequality in Higher Education

AAUP Releases Annual Report on Faculty Salaries

Washington, D.C. — Although inflation is down and full‑time faculty salaries are finally back up, financial inequality in American higher education continues to grow. That is one of the central findings of “Financial Inequality in Higher Education: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2006–07,” which was released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) on April 12.

The AAUP’s annual report has been an authoritative source of data on faculty salaries and compensation for decades. This year’s report discusses the widening gaps between rich and poor institutions; between presidents, football coaches, and faculty members; and among faculty members. The report also considers the potential negative consequences for higher education if these inequalities continue to expand. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Overall average faculty salaries rose 3.8 percent between 2005–06 and 2006–07. With annual inflation at 2.5 percent, this is the first “real” increase in average salary since 2003–04.
  • Investment earnings from institutional endowments are a growing source of inequality among colleges and universities. Institutions that have larger endowments can spend more on faculty and facilities and reap higher rates of return than institutions that have smaller endowments.
  • Escalating salaries for college and university presidents continue to separate them from the economic realities faced by their faculty and staff employees. When presidents routinely receive salaries that are three times those paid to senior faculty members, the gulf is clearly widening.
  • Topping even presidential salaries, the contracts offered to Division I football coaches are also raising eyebrows this year. This year’s report compares salaries for coaches, presidents, and faculty members and asks what the pay differences among them say about our institutional priorities.
  • There is also growing financial inequality within the faculty. This year’s report takes a new look at disciplinary differences in salaries and calls for an open and frank discussion of the impact of salary disparities on faculty careers.

The primary author of this year’s report is Saranna Thornton, Elliott Professor of Economics at Hampden‑Sydney College in Virginia and chair of the AAUP’s Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession.

The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. The AAUP has about 45,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Contact John Curtis, (202) 737‑5900 ext. 143, jcurtis@aaup.org, or Robin Burns, (202) 737‑5900 ext. 113, rburns@aaup.org.