News

April 11, 2011

In Academia, Raises Go Straight To The Top

By: by Scott Waldman, Staff writer, Times Union

Source:

ALBANY -- The pay of public university faculty stagnated during the recession while administrator salaries have grown, according to two new reports.

Nationally, the median compensation package for a public university president in 2009-10 was $440,487, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. That includes base pay, bonuses and all money the state or university sets aside for the president.

Meanwhile, for the average professor, salary is at a historic low and pay increases in the past three years have been less than the rate of inflation, according to the American Association of University Professors, a Washington-based advocacy group. And yet, during the recession, administrators have seen twice the salary rate increase as faculty.

Locally, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher was compensated $689,600 in 2009-10, which includes a $90,000 housing allowance, according to the Chronicle. UAlbany President George Philip earned $280,000, while SUNY Stony Brook chief Samuel Stanley made $669,600. All have presided over program and staff cuts.

With another round of budget cuts on the way at virtually every university, the outlook will only get worse, said John Curtis, AAUP director of research and public policy. That could have a significant effect on the college students of the future, who will be more likely to sit in large survey courses taught by a graduate student than they are now. Many courses could simply disappear, he warned, as some liberal arts majors have at the University at Albany.

A continuation of the trend could eventually change what it means to get a college education in America. "We're getting to a fundamental issue on the purpose of higher education," Curtis said. "Increasingly, it comes down to whether students can get a complete education, rather than just training in a few specific skills."

A handful of university presidents have given back part of their salary or used annual bonuses to create student scholarships. Most continued to quietly rake in massive salaries as public ire in a time of diminished resources has not touched on the ivory tower in the same way as it has in a school district, where salaries directly affect property taxes.

Local university heads did not see their pay diminish though state SUNY aid continues to be slashed. The highest-paid head of a public university system in the country was Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, who earned $1.8 million. The lowest paid was Timothy Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges system, who made $212,800.

By contrast, the average faculty salary at a public university was about $65,551, according to the AAUP survey. Since 2007, the report found, presidential salaries grew by 11.5 percent while professor pay rose 5.4 percent.

The idea that a university president should make as much as a business manager is now endemic in higher education, UAlbany French Professor Jean-Francois Briere said. The size of the budget is measured as justification, rather than the quality of the education it offers.

"Instead of seeing the college as a university, it's a business," he said. "(Administrators) are money managers. It's an idea that has been growing over the years."

College students of the future are also more likely to be taught by a graduate student or adjunct, the AAUP survey found. Meanwhile, the number of tenured professors continues to shrink. The report found that 75 percent of the total instructional staff in higher education are now graduate student employees and faculty members serving in contingent appointments.

As budget-cutting continues, the faculty who have direct contact with students are an area that can least afford to take the cuts, said Curtis, of the AAUP. He said universities must be viewed an investment for a state, and one that produces a high return: citizens better able to participate in a democracy.