A new report shows that, even as the University of Virginia worked to bolster its increasingly uncompetitive faculty salaries, it was slipping further behind its highly ranked competitors.
University administrators have made the faculty salary plan a top priority, and the school’s Board of Visitors gave it the go-ahead in February. The university’s goal is to be among the top 20 members of the Association of American Universities for average faculty salary, as measured by the American Association of University Professors.
When the board passed the plan in February, it relied on research that showed UVa ranked 26th among the roughly 60 members of the universities’ association. The new report shows UVa at 34th.
The schools that rank above UVa include both Ivy League institutions and top-ranked public universities, including several members of the University of California system and the flagship campuses of the universities of Illinois and Michigan.
According to the professors’ association, excluding medical faculty, the average pay for full professors at UVa was $143,200; for associate professors, it was $93,800; for assistant professors, it was $82,900; and for instructors, it was $53,100. Across all full-time teaching faculty, again excluding medical faculty, the average pay was $109,400, the report states.
While UVa’s average professor pay across all ranks is an item of concern for administrators competing on the national scene for new hires, it remains the highest reported in Virginia, edging out Washington and Lee University, which averaged $101,800.
When UVa’s board approved the faculty plan, UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan said it was “clear” that faculty pay is eroding the school’s ability to recruit the best new faculty members.
With UVa expecting an exodus of aging faculty within the next decade, administrators are bracing for a wave of hires they feel could define the university for a generation.
“If we falter or hesitate on this front, no other front will matter,” Sullivan told the board in February.
In an email Sunday, UVa chief communications officer Anthony P. de Bruyn said the board and university administration "steadfastly support the goal of raising average faculty salaries into the Top 20 among UVa’s Association of American University peers by June 2017."
In September, Sullivan said that the move would cost about $65 million.
The report found that, on the whole, full-time faculty members across the country saw salary increases of 1.7 percent on average, keeping pace with inflation.
While information on more than 1,100 institutions is in the report, UVa is gauging itself against other members of the universities’ association — an elite group that includes many of the nation’s top universities.
“Salaries did not actually rise any faster this year, but the rate of inflation was low enough to keep them from falling any further behind,” the report reads.
Most instructors are not in tenure-track positions, the report says, and public institutions continue to get less and less state money in real terms.
Nationwide, the report found a more than 18 percent decline in state appropriations for higher education between 2008 and 2013. It found that Virginia mirrored that trend, with a 17.4 percent reduction in state appropriations, adjusted for inflation, from 2008 to 2013, for public universities and colleges.
“Much of the tuition price increase in public higher education over the last several years has been a direct consequence of reductions in state appropriations,” the report reads. “As states have abdicated their responsibility for ensuring access to postsecondary education, students and their families have been forced to bear more of the costs in the form of higher tuition prices.”
The report also found public-sector faculty members at doctoral universities earn 35 percent less than their private-sector counterparts.
“There is, as we’ve been noting for a number of years ... a continuing gap between the situation at private colleges and universities and the publics,” said John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the professors' association.
Not only are private-institution salaries higher, Curtis said, they’re also increasing faster than public-school salaries.
“Public colleges and universities, reeling from immediate and long-term cutbacks in their state funding, have sought to reduce spending on the backs of their students, increasingly substituting lower-paid contingent faculty members for more fairly paid tenure-track faculty members,” the report reads.
Budget tightening has led to the widening pay gap between public and private universities and colleges, the report states.
“Elected leaders consistently proclaim that investing in higher education is a state and national imperative, yet the data on state appropriations and public-private faculty salary disparities belie these proclamations,” reads the news release.