UF playing catch-up in making faculty pay competitive

Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 6:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 6:29 p.m.

When Roger Beebe was offered a faculty position at Ohio State University, the counter-offer by the University of Florida was not enough to make him stay in the English Department's Film and Media Studies Program.

In addition to more pay, OSU guaranteed that Beebe would get $15,000 in research money over the course of his first four years, and it had more travel money available to attend conferences and seminars.

The dean of UF's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences declined to offer Beebe any additional research support, so after 14 years at UF, Beebe packed his bags for the Buckeye State.

"Faculty who get significant offers from other peer institutions or better are let go rather than given a salary match," said Beebe, who was earning $75,650 when he left — an amount that is about $10,000 below the average for associate professors at UF.

Faculty at UF typically earn well below what their colleagues in similar positions at peer institutions make. Even after a 5 percent average raise this year, they trail their colleagues at the public universities that UF administrators want to be compared with, an analysis of data provided to The Sun by the Association of American University Professors shows.

Full professors at UF on average earn $128,300 a year, which is $10,000 to $45,000 less on average than full professors at UCLA, the University of Virginia and Penn State and other top 10 schools. Mid-level associate professors at UF also can expect to earn on average $10,000 to $26,000 less than their colleagues at similar public universities, while junior faculty can expect to earn on average about $10,000 less than their peers at other public institutions.

Such a gap makes it difficult to attract and retain the kind of top-notch faculty that UF administrators said they need to achieve top 10 status. UF administrators have acknowledged this, launching an ambitious five-year recruiting program with the backing of the governor and Legislature targeting "rock star" professors from other universities.

"Boosting our employee compensation will also help ensure that we pay salaries that are more competitive with our peer universities nationally," President Bernie Machen said in a letter to supporters of UF.

The university plans to match the $75 million it will receive from the state over the next five years with private money and use it to hire 75 to 100 new faculty. In addition, the UF Foundation has begun a funding drive to raise $800 million to create new chairs and endowments and provide other financial support for those new positions.

Faculty pay across the nation had stalled because of recession-era funding cuts and are just beginning to show signs of recovery. The AAUP report released this week, "Losing Focus," shows that salaries for full-time faculty increased an average of 2.2 percent this year — the first time in years that faculty pay rose faster than the rate of inflation.

Among other things, the report looks at the disparity in pay between private and public universities, the growing budget for administrative salaries, and the increased focus on intercollegiate sports.

UF faculty saw a pay increase close to 5 percent. Even that increase didn't restore the pay of senior and mid-level faculty to pre-recession levels, according to the AAUP data. In fact, UF faculty in those two ranks saw the gap grow between what they earn and what their peers at other universities make.

For example, a full professor at the University of Florida in 2010 earned roughly the same as a colleague with a similar job at the University of Minnesota. Three years later, that Minnesota professor saw her salary increase 3.3 percent while the UF professor saw hers drop 1.6 percent.

Also, an associate professor at UF earned $85,467 in 2010 but watched her pay decrease slightly while her Minnesota colleague's pay rose over the same four-year period.

Meanwhile, the pay for UF junior faculty improved during that same period, from an average of $73,000 a year to $76,200 — still a good $10,000 a year less than what junior faculty at the top 10 public universities make.

The national trends in how pay increases are awarded have caused a disparity among the ranks of university professors, according to an analysis of the AAUP data by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

On average, pay for assistant professors has grown by 9 percent since 2000, while pay for associates has grown by 5.6 percent, according to the Chronicle report. Pay for full professors has jumped by nearly 12 percent.

Data for UF salaries shows a similar trend. Junior faculty at UF have seen their average pay increase by 9.2 percent since 2000, when it was around $69,000. Associate or mid-level faculty at UF saw a 6.9 percent increase during that time, from $79,563 in 2000 to the current $85,100.

And full or senior faculty at UF saw their pay increase by nearly 20 percent, from $107,529 in 2000 to the current $128,300.

Beebe said the larger percentage increase for full or senior faculty at UF might have to do with the practice of giving raises with tenure.

"I noticed during the time my salary remained relatively flat, new junior faculty were brought in at higher salaries," Beebe said. Even with a 9 percent raise for tenure and promotion the year he became an associate professor, his pay increase was only around $4,000.

Beebe received a "market equity adjustment" of $2,500 in 2010 — about 3.7 percent of his salary at the time, but he got no raises in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Last year, he received a 1.3 percent raise.

"If faculty were given regular raises pre-tenure, that might not be the case," Beebe said. "But the raises are irregular at best, and rarely are they substantial when they do come."

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