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Schools pump up faculty salaries

Rochester Business Journal
May 11, 2012

Hit with heavy competition for faculty members, area colleges and universities have stepped up efforts to keep compensation at or above their peer institutions’.
 
Two years after faculty pay dropped as the recession necessitated pay freezes, most local colleges had increases for the 2011-12 academic year, data from the American Association of University Professors shows. Most local institutions saw faculty pay increase 2 percent to 3 percent for the year, with these raises coming in a more targeted way to increase equity and create competitive salaries.
 
For the past two years, St. John Fisher College has been studying the salaries of its faculty members, breaking them down by department and tenure and comparing them against worldwide data.
 
The process was the most intensive effort to create pay equity for professors that the college has taken, but it represents a trend common among all local institutions.
 
St. John Fisher hired a consulting firm that conducted a complete analysis of all faculty, staff and administrator salaries. These numbers were then compared against two groups—the college’s closest peers, institutions such as Nazareth College of Rochester and Siena College near Albany, and a group of institutions that are considered a step above St. John Fisher’s status.
 
The study looked at not only base salary but benefits as well.
 
“Across the board we want everyone in the 50th percentile, so if anyone is in the 40th or 45th percentile, we want to bring them up,” said Thomas O’Neil, vice president for finance and business at St. John Fisher.
 
The college’s efforts were reflected in salary data published last month in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Using numbers reported to the AAUP, the survey showed that in 2011-12, full professors at St. John Fisher make $91,100 on average, while associate professors make $72,300.
 
The effort to bring pay to the level of the college’s peers is more evident in its salary growth over the last 12 years. While the typical baccalaureate institution raised faculty pay by $21,800 since 2000, pay for St. John Fisher professors has risen $29,800 on average.
 
Because salary comparisons with the AAUP data are made against all institutions of the same classification, direct comparisons are difficult and pay increases are a better benchmark, said Peter Lennie, senior vice president and dean of the faculty of arts, sciences and engineering at the University of Rochester.
 
“The particular numbers of colleges and universities are not as useful as trends, but what is important is tracking trends to know the average moved up by such-and-such a percentage from one year to another,” Lennie said.
 
UR had the highest average salaries among local institutions, with full professors making an average of $133,800 in 2011-12 and associate professors an average $97,200 per year. Pay for UR’s full professors is up $41,000 since 2000, while the average at doctoral institutions rose $36,400 during that time.
 
Because UR faces stiff competition for faculty in a national and international pool, keeping pay equitable and competitive is a continuing priority, Lennie said.
 
“We’re competing with a small number of major research universities here and abroad for top faculty, and at that level when we secure faculty it’s against multiple institutions, not just colleges and universities,” he said. “The market is very aggressive here.”
 
Nazareth College of Rochester also completed a benchmarking survey two years ago in which administrators developed a methodology for comparing faculty salaries against those at peer institutions. The benchmarks were determined using a faculty member’s academic discipline, seniority and number of years at the current rank.
 
Based on these findings, Nazareth made a round of salary adjustments in October 2010 to bring up faculty whose pay had fallen below the benchmarks. College officials plan to revisit these benchmarks regularly to keep faculty pay competitive.
 
“Our anticipation is that periodically we will see if we’re still hitting these benchmarks, and as we hire from year to year, we will roll out raises of varying percentages,” said Sara Varhus, Nazareth vice president of academic affairs.
 
The salary survey released this month by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that pay at Nazareth had increased at a rate slower than that for other master’s institutions. Since 2000, faculty pay had risen $22,100 at Nazareth, and the average increase was $25,250 during that time.
 
In 2011-12, full professors at Nazareth make an average of $83,600 and associate professors make $69,400 on average.
 
The numbers put Nazareth below the 50th percentile in comparison with all other master’s institutions in the survey, but such a broad comparison does not serve much purpose, Varhus said. Nazareth’s assessment of faculty pay is instead made on a case-by-case basis, she said.
 
“We believe pay equity is tied to the market, so we want to make sure our salaries are always similar to the market,” she said.
 
Rochester Institute of Technology also looks at equity on an individual basis rather than using aggregate data from the AAUP. The average salary for a full professor there is  $113,100 in 2011-12, and associate professors make $85,900 on average, putting both at the 92nd percentile among master’s-level institutions in the survey.
 
But RIT avoids comparison to this larger group and instead focuses on its closest peers, said Judy Bender, assistant vice president of human resources. The university’s goal is to stay at the 50th percentile of pay among its closest peers, the colleges and universities it competes against most directly for students, Bender said. This peer set includes institutions such as Carnegie Mellon, Drexel and Lehigh universities.
 
Over the past 12 years, pay at RIT increased at a rate 31 percent faster than that for other master’s institutions—a total average increase of $33,200 at RIT compared with $25,250 elsewhere.
 
RIT aims for a much deeper analysis when looking at faculty pay, Bender said.
 
“When we look individually at creating equity, there are a number of factors in play,” Bender said. “We look at performance, the labor market data for the person’s specific discipline, who their former employers were and whether there is any significant research they’ve created.”

5/11/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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