COVID-19 Has Affected Faculty Salaries

How COVID-19 Has Affected Faculty Salaries in 2021

A recent survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)  found that the average faculty pay in the U.S. decreased by 0.4% in 2021. However, faculty pay in some institutions increased this year because some of the lowest-paid professors were laid off due to the pandemic. It is worth noting that salaries don’t reflect the full scale of faculty compensation. Many institutions either cut or reduce benefits this year, and it’s unclear whether they will be restored. Here’s some more information on this topic.

Faculty Numbers Fell

In over 50% of institutions, the number of full-time faculty dropped. In 26% of universities and colleges, the full-time faculty ranks shrunk by 5%. The least affected were doctoral institutions, which saw a slight increase in the number of full-time faculty. However, in master’s institutions, the number of full-time faculty dropped by 2.2%. There was a 1.6% drop in four-year institutions and a 3.1% drop in community colleges. In public institutions, full-time faculty numbers increased slightly but shrunk in all other institutions. The most affected are religiously affiliated universities and colleges, which saw a 2.4% drop in full-time faculty numbers.

In two-thirds of universities and colleges, faculty pay decreased after accounting for inflation. This was the lowest growth in full-time professors’ compensation since 1972 when the AAUP began tracking these statistics. The average faculty earnings dropped in 42% of the institutions surveyed. In 68% of universities and colleges, there was a drop in real wage growth after deflation.

Average Income in Doctoral Institutions

During the current academic year, assistant professors in doctoral institutions made $91,408. Associate professors earned $104,482, and full-time professors earned $159,919. Meanwhile, full-time instructors earned $66,620 and lecturers earned $69,295.

Average Income in Master’s Degree-Granting Institutions

Full-time professors earned $104,389, and associate professors earned $83,958. Assistant professors earned $73,492, while full-time instructors earned $57,103.

Average Income in Baccalaureate Institutions 

Full-time professors at community colleges earned $91,196, associates earned $75,550, and assistants earned $64, 823. Lecturers and instructors made $68,641 and $54,547, respectively. Private institutions in general paid better than public institutions. Conversely, public institutions paid more than religiously affiliated universities and colleges.

Gender Gap

Similar to previous years, this AAUP survey revealed a gender gap across the institutions and faculty ranks. On average, female full-time professors earned $127,819, while male full-time professors earned $147,042. Among assistant professors, women and men earned $79,621 and $87,530 respectively. Women lecturers made $64,187 while male lecturers made $69,857. The AAUP doesn’t differentiate the earnings by discipline.

Salary Variance by Geographical Region

The institutions that paid the most were in the West Coast, Mid-Atlantic, and New England. On average, in New England, an assistant professor was paid about $93,000. Conversely, in the lowest-paid areas, including Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky, an assistant professor was paid $74,000. Before deflation, average income went up by 1% this year—this is the most diminutive increase since 1972 when the AAUP started tracking this measure.

Increase in Terminations and Non-renewals

According to the aforementioned AAUP survey, 5% of the universities and colleges said they either terminated or did not reappoint some of the tenure-track or tenured faculty members due to the effects of the pandemic. Additionally, 20% of the institutions either terminated or didn’t renew the contracts of some professors who weren’t on the tenure track.

In 2021, faculty pay could barely keep up with inflation. For more information on the dynamics of compensation in universities and colleges, reach out to the professionals at McKnight Associates, Inc. We provide human resource consulting services to universities and colleges.