While most faculty salaries increased last year at a greater rate than inflation, some experts are now concerned that the trend may not continue in a worsening economy. At Yale, Deputy Provost Charles Long remained confident that faculty salaries would buck the economic downturn.

Faculty salaries increased by 3.8 percent nationwide this year, according to the American Association of University Professors’ annual survery of 1,433 colleges and unversities. While the increase remained above the inflation rate, the report suggested salaries may not keep pace with inflation in the future.

Daniel Hamermesh, chairman of the AAUP’s Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession, said the results for this year were positive.

“This is a pretty good year — relative to inflation,” he said.

But Ronald Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell University Higher Education Research Institute, said he did not think the 3.8 percent increase would repeat itself because of the lagging economy, especially at public institutions.

Long said salaries of Yale faculty members would remain above inflation levels, but the economy may affect how much the salaries stay above these levels.

“How much will depend on our needs — and other priorities,” Long said.

According to the report, which was released in March, Yale ranked fourth in salaries for full professors, with an average salary of $131,200. Harvard topped the list with $144,700, with Rockefeller University and Princeton University placing second and third, respectively. In the Ivy League, Brown ranked the lowest on the list at 56th, with an average salary of $101,800.

But Yale did not appear at the top of the list for highest-paid assistant professors. Babson College led the list, with the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Cornell also appearing among the top 15 institutions.

Yale officials said the report is problematic because it does not take into account the sizes of professional schools at universities. Certain professional schools, like law and business, have much higher average salaries. Thus, the AAUP’s report gives an advantage to universities with large professional schools, Yale officials said.

The report does exclude medical schools, where faculty numbers vary significantly.

Hamermesh said while he agreed that it is not possible to compare one school to another at one point in time, the report does track general trends.

“It lets you compare how different schools change in comparison to each other over time,” Hamermesh said.

Long said compared to other universities, Yale’s salaries display a smaller gap between the average salary and the top salary. He said Yale prefers to judge its salaries based on average, not maximum, salaries.

“Our salaries are more evenly distributed across the continuum,” Long said.

Long said Yale is generally unwilling to compete for professors by offering perks such as lower course loads. Instead, the University attracts professors because of the depth of its faculty and the quality of its students, he said.

“We certainly don’t like to lose — and we seldom lose,” Long said.

Long said he agreed with the report’s contention that public universities will be hit much harder by recent economic trends. Private institutions with large endowments, like Yale, will not be as negatively affected, he said.

Ehrenberg said he thought economic trends could increase pay differentials between private and public universities.

“I think that at the best universities, the salaries of the faculty will continue to pull away from the others,” Ehrenberg said.