As I did my research on faculty salaries, I was filled with astonishment and outrage. I became certain that this was a slam dunk straight NO! No these faculty salary figures could never be justified – not when so many students are laden with tens of thousands of debt.
My research began with The Chronicle of Higher Education and these figures for how much a full time professor earned in 2011-12:
Harvard - $198,400
California Institute of Technology - $175,000
Dartmouth College - $162,100
Then I turned to The Chronicle of Higher Education Salary Survey for 2013-14 and I saw these figures for how much a full time professor earns currently (2014):
Harvard - $207,100
California Institute of Technology - $182,100
Dartmouth College - $174,000
Yes, these faculty salaries sound huge and when you add the University Dean salaries, senior management team, administration, PR, marketing, HR, associate professors, assistant professors and support staff…it goes a long way to explain why students are paying so much for an education. So, why don’t they take a salary cut? Why isn’t one imposed on them? Are they really that crucial that they are on a par with a surgeon’s salary?
I was certain that I would stay enraged by these grossly unfair salaries – which professors were striking over in one University in January this year! And then I stumbled across this – written by Professor Pettigrew in response to the striking professors:
‘One way that is not reasonable is to compare university faculty salaries to average salaries in general. University faculty in Canada typically earn a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by a Master’s degree, and then a PhD, a process that can easily take over a decade, and that’s not counting the additional years of post-doctoral fellowships, part-time jobs, or limited-term appointments normally required before one finds a tenure-track job. If a tenure-track job is available at all. I didn’t find a tenure-track job until I was 30 and that was considered very young. Many don’t find tenure-track jobs until well into their forties. So to say that UNB profs earn more than the average New Brunswick family (which pulls in about $64,000 a year, according to StatsCan) is meaningless, since the comparison isn’t among comparable jobs.’
And I am left with one final comment on this. Just the one. Professors were once students and more than that they are academically inclined – destined to nurture their knowledge and their subject as part of their profession. They are the perpetual student and ultimately they educate our doctors, lawyers, high end consultants, politicians, war correspondents, rocket scientists!
Students will be paying off debts for most of their lives whether the professor’s pay packet is reduced or not! Rather than an insult to injury all it really represents and stands for at the end of the day is…hope. If a small number of debt ridden students work most of their lives for a coveted career in academia then they deserve the reward. A decade of education is expensive so at least they will get the chance to pay it off and as much as I would like to condemn disproportionate salaries. On the scale of skilled professionals they are not disproportionate. Students should aim high and hope to follow in their professors footsteps because it is a damn fine gig if they can get it!
Prof Pettigrew, ‘Calculating a fair wage for striking UNB professors’ (Jan, 2014)
The Chronicle of Higher Education – Almanac of Higher Education Article (2012)