Average full-time faculty salary grows more than inflation for first time in three years

The average full-time faculty salary increased 3.8 percent for the 2006-’07 academic year, according to a national study released Thursday by the American Association of University Professors.

For the first time in three years, the increase surpassed the rate of inflation, which was 2.5 percent in 2006, signifying a climb in professors’ raw salaries. The ranking of universities with the highest-paid tenured professors changed little, the AAUP found. Rockefeller University remained in the top spot, followed by Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and the University of Chicago. Yale ranked sixth in the average salary for full professors, but was not among the top 10 highest-payers for associate or assistant professors.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the annual AAUP study is “helpful” to the University in assessing where it falls relative to other institutions in terms of salaries. But he said comparing average salaries across disciplines can be misleading. The figure tends to be higher for schools that have larger business schools, law schools and economics departments, he said, as professors in those fields tend to earn more as a result of market forces.

Salovey said he would like to have data comparing average salaries for specific departments.

“Obviously we want our salaries to be competitive, and we never want to be in a position where we cannot attract or retain a faculty member because we are not offering competitive salaries,” Salovey said. “Comparisons across universities are often a bit difficult, [but] it’s very difficult to get data broken down more carefully. You just have to be careful not to compare apples to oranges.”

John Curtis, the AAUP’s director of research and public policy, told Inside Higher Education that the widespread salary increases were an attempt to “compensate for salaries that have been stagnant.”

The AAUP said in the report that they were pleased that faculty members were able to heighten their standards of living, though they also focused on the growing salary inequality between institutions. Full professors at high-ranking research universities, for example, earn three times the salaries of their peers at less wealthy schools. The report also noted the increasing salary gap between different disciplines, with humanities faculty in subjects like literature and philosophy lagging substantially behind their counterparts at professional schools, for example.

Stanford topped the charts for salaries for associate professors and the California Institute of Technology ranked No. 1 for the assistant level.