Dear Commons Community,
Average full-time faculty salaries decreased by 5 percent in the 2021-22 academic year when adjusted for inflation, the largest single-year drop in the 50 years that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has tracked academic wages.
The AAUP’s latest faculty-compensation survey, which was released yesterday as part of its annual report on the state of the profession, says that full-time faculty salaries in 2021-22 were 2 percent higher — essentially flat — than in 2020-21. But that actually was a big pay cut in real terms. Adjusted for inflation, faculty salaries fell at 95 percent of institutions that were surveyed in both 2020-21 and 2021-22. It also found that three in five faculty members were on contingent appointments.
Faculty-pay levels and other trends “paint a bleak economic picture of the profession,” the report says. The report’s release comes amid the continuing pandemic, a historic increase in interest rates in an effort to combat rising inflation, and the economic impact of both Covid-19 and the Ukraine war.
Data collection for the survey concluded in March 2022, with over 900 US colleges and universities providing employment data for more than 370,000 full-time and 90,000 part-time faculty members as well as senior administrators at over 500 institutions. Here are the key findings.
- From 2020–21 to 2021–22, average salaries for full-time faculty members increased 2.0 percent, consistent with the flat wage growth observed since the Great Recession of the late 2000s.
- Real wages for full-time faculty fell below Great Recession levels in 2021, with average salary falling to 2.3 percent below the 2008 average salary, after adjusting for inflation.
- Real wages for full-time faculty members decreased 5.0 percent after adjusting for inflation, the largest one-year decrease on record since the AAUP began tracking this measure in 1972.
- In 2021–22, 97.2 percent of full-time faculty members were covered by retirement plans, a 2.8-point increase from 2020–21.
- Institutions reported full-time faculty salaries for women that are 81.9 percent of those for men in 2021–22, on average. The gender pay gap is greatest at the full professor rank.
- From 2019–20 to 2021–22, the number of full-time women faculty members increased 1.6 percent, compared with a 2.5 percent decrease for men.
- In 2020–21, average pay for adjunct faculty members to teach a course section ranged from $2,979 in public associate’s institutions without ranks to $5,557 in public doctoral institutions.
- In fall 2020, about three in five (61.5 percent) faculty members were on contingent appointments.
This report does not paint a rosy outlook for the profession, although it is possible that as higher education eases out of the pandemic that salaries and other indicators will improve.