Compensation Can Impact the Quality of Higher Education

How Faculty Compensation Can Impact the Quality of Higher Education

A recent National Education Association (NEA) report revealed that faculty compensation in higher education has increased over the past 10 years. While the salary for a full-time professor averaged $90,000 in 2020, there are still significant discrepancies in pay across faculty ranks, with unfair or inadequate compensation impacting the quality of higher education. Here’s a discussion on why colleges should come up with an ideal faculty remuneration formula to better fulfill their academic, socioeconomic, or cultural roles in the communities they serve.

How Faculty Salaries Impact the Quality of Higher Education

Higher education stakeholders, such as the government, politicians, and the public, will more readily support funding an institution that fulfills its core mission. Colleges need funds to operate smoothly, including adequately compensating teaching staff. By getting their faculty compensation structure and levels right, the institutions are better placed to accomplish their objectives.

Characteristics of an Ideal Higher Education Faculty Compensation Scheme

Not every compensation structure in high education can get an institution the desired outcomes. If salaries are based on the wrong factors, a university may not always achieve the quality of education necessary to attract adequate funding.

Here are some factors to incorporate in the design of a highly effective faculty compensation system.

  • Tie salary levels/increments to institutional goals– When assessing how much to pay faculty members across different ranks, you should keep your institution’s mission statement in mind. You could base remuneration increments on faculty performance improvements, for instance. When compensation is an incentive for faculty to deliver on expectations, it’s easier for an institution to accomplish its overall mission and meet stakeholders’ expectations.
  • Tie compensation to academic disciplines-Take disciplinary differences into account when designing your faculty compensation scheme. In some disciplines, research work adds greater value to faculty. For others, getting published in a peer-reviewed journal is not as important as public service in helping an institution achieve its mission. As such, come up with a system that rewards effort, achievement, or milestones based on the overall value added to the faculty.
  • Account for individual strengths– Each professor or lecturer is different in capabilities and skills. By placing the same expectations on every faculty member, it’s difficult to accurately reward individuals for the exact academic value they are adding. For example, you shouldn’t hold teachers to the same standards as researchers. A more effective approach takes into account particular strengths for faculty members in each academic department. With each individual playing their respective role to the required standard, it’s easier to achieve the overall objectives.
  • Consider industry’s best practices-There are different types of faculty compensation systems. Some are merit-based, such as the contract salary system, while others offer specific figures based on academic rank. While you should develop a system that suits your institution’s unique needs, consider referencing standards adopted at regional or state levels.
  • Incorporate a grading system– To ensure the practicality and fairness of a faculty compensation system, you should devise a way to assess individual and faculty performance. An assessment criterion will foster objectivity in determining faculty salary structures and levels.

Every higher education institution has a mission to fulfill, and that’s contingent on receiving adequate stakeholder support and funding. Use these tips to get your faculty compensation right, improve higher education quality, and attract the support you need to accomplish your overall goals.

Do you need help developing a proper faculty compensation scheme for your institution? If so, contact the experts at McKnight Associates, Inc. We specialize in human resources consulting for higher education institutions.