Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The other day, hunting around, I happened on the "State of the Profession" page on the Chronicle of Higher Ed webpage. I read what I could of it (I don't have a subscription for "premium content." My library on campus probably does, but right at that moment I didn't feel like calling over and asking if they had a password).

But this struck me.

I'm a full professor. At a four-year institution. All I can say is there must be some folks earning close to seven digits for the average "full professor" salary to be $130,803 a year.

IF I teach summers, I make about $5000 under HALF that for a year.

Granted, yes: I teach at a small, regional, state school with a teaching focus. And yes, I am in a low-cost-of-living part of the country: I probably paid less than a third of what I would on either coast for my house. And granted, yes, I can live pretty comfortably as a single woman with relatively few needs on $60K or a little less....I probably couldn't if I had kids or was trying to help support a spouse who was unemployed or attending school himself.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not really envious, but that now I see the source of the "overpaid professor" meme.

But, boy damn....I'd love to see the frequency distribution of professor's salaries.

(I actually made an object lesson of this in my stats class....and got a laugh out of the students who know that our pay is NOWHERE near that. I gave an example of how a median is sometimes better than a mean...and to be honest, I'd like to see the MEDIAN full-professor salary in the U.S.).

And yes, I get that law schools and med schools and such have to pay more in order to retain "good" people, but....for the average salary to be well over twice my annual salary, I'm pretty gobsmacked by that.

I also hope that VP Biden doesn't get ahold of that figure....according to this site, he believes we're all overpaid: "V.P. Joe Biden, a few months back, said that the reason tuitions are out of control is because of the high price of college faculty"

(I have not read all of that essay, it's pretty damn long, but what I've read rings true. And I have no idea if the Biden quote is accurate but I'm going to assume that the writer isn't misquoting).

One thing I will say that I thought about, which gives me some comfort: when the higher-ed bubble bursts, those of us who are fairly 'cheap' may actually be the ones who survive. When some of the gigantic state schools have crashed and burned, when some of the private schools have found themselves unsustainable...maybe those of us who have already cut to the bone and beyond will be able to survive...and maybe even later on, thrive, in a marketplace that's been somewhat gutted. Or maybe I'm just telling myself that.

I do know the only things I really have control over are (a) to teach my students the best I possibly can and to make myself as un-firable as possible (even with tenure, it's possible to RIF people during budget cuts) and (b) sock away any extra money against future bad times.

1 comment:

Kate P said...

Yeah, I'm hoping for being a desirable bargain in my field, too, especially because my master's was declared the "most worthless" recently. . . and supposedly the average salary is 57K (Ha! I wish I was anywhere NEAR that!).