The average faculty salary nationwide rose 3.5 percent during the 2000-2001 academic year, outpacing inflation for the seventh time in eight years, according to an annual report released Friday by the American Association of University Professors.

While professor salaries still grew relative to inflation, the magnitude of increase has greatly narrowed. The 2000-2001 boost barely edged the 2000 inflation rate of 3.4 percent. With the economy faltering, the report predicts that increases will continue to decline if the economic downturn continues.

“The real value of faculty salaries was scarcely higher than the academic year before — despite the strong performance of the economy,” said Haverford College economics professor and AAUP report author Linda A. Bell in the report. “Recent history has taught us that even a mild recession — which many economists predict for 2001 — can adversely impact faculty salaries.”

At Yale, faculty salaries will increase five percent for the 2002 fiscal year after an increase of 4.5 percent this year. During the 1999 fiscal year, the last period for which official numbers are available, Yale’s average full professor salary was $113,100.

The Yale faculty salary pool for the 2002 fiscal year will be five percent higher than in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Administrators say the increase is necessary to retain highly sought after faculty members and recruit new talent.

In addition to its average salary data, the AAUP report notes other unsettling trends in academia, including an increasing disparity in faculty salaries between elite and other institutions, a growing variation in salaries between professors in different academic disciplines and a salary gender gap.

Patterns identified in the report are no secret to Yale officials.

Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer, has noticed that the salary gap between faculty at highly prestigious universities like Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Stanford and other institutions has been growing in recent years. Provost’s office officials attribute this disparity to increased competition among top-flight universities and strong endowment performance, which enables elite institutions to raise salaries at a faster rate.

As a result of this salary run-up, it has become increasingly difficult for institutions that lack multibillion-dollar endowments to successfully lure big name faculty to their campuses.

The report also indicates that the economy has forced universities to increase salaries of those in select academic departments in order to remain competitive. Yale administrators frequently note that it costs far more to retain a School of Management professor than, for example, a sociology professor.

“There is an intersection with the private sector, which will drive up salaries within the academy,” Richard said. “The bumpiness [among disciplines] is reflected by competition.”

Data also support the well-known fact that professors are paid less than similarly educated professionals — about 25 to 30 percent less, according to the report.

The AAUP report also concludes that men earn about six percent more than women of the same professorial rank and that the gap grows to 10 percent at research universities like Yale.

Yale faculty salary data published by the Committee on the Economic Status of Faculty does not include a breakdown by gender.