As several studies published during the past year have confirmed, higher education provides health and economic benefits that are vital to American society. These benefits, however, are threatened by ongoing political and financial attacks on higher education. Now, more than ever, faculty members and others who care about higher education must join together to resist these attacks.
In 2017–18, average salaries for full-time continuing faculty members increased by 3.0 percent over the previous academic year, or by 1.1 percent after adjusting for inflation. Presidents of institutions participating in the AAUP’s Faculty Compensation Survey are paid 4.78 times more than fulltime faculty members, on average.
Accompanying this year’s report are two data snapshots that serve to situate the report’s results within the larger national discussion about retirement benefits, state funding of higher education, and early-career faculty. Drastic cuts in state appropriations have often affected faculty at public colleges and universities more than other public employees as legislators have targeted higher education budgets. And states with catastrophic decreases in support for higher education have typically faced a corresponding financial crisis caused by the underfunding of public pensions. The coming retirement crisis for employees under forty is worsened for early-career faculty because of their late entry into the workforce relative to other employees.
This year’s report explores some of the benefits full-time faculty receive. Many of the broader societal trends affecting retirement and health benefits hit faculty especially hard. What appear to be very generous retirement benefits for some faculty become much less generous when the mobility required for early-career faculty is considered. Some public institutions seem to offer better retirement benefits than private institutions but are not paying into Social Security for their employees. The continually increasing costs of health care have also affected faculty—while premiums for employer-covered health-care plans rose by 3 percent nationally in 2017, the average increase in employer contributions at reporting institutions was below that (and was negative at private religiously affiliated institutions). The data gathered by the AAUP can help explore such nuances in a complicated compensation landscape.