Nationwide, faculty pay sees smallest increase in at least 50 years

Professors’ salaries nationwide increased less this year than ever in recent history, and this was especially true at USC, though the move was intentional.

An annual study from the American Association of University Professors revealed a miniscule 1.2 percent increase in academic salaries across the United States in 2009-2010. USC raised its salaries less than half that amount.

“We instituted a pay freeze,” said Martin Levine, vice provost of faculty affairs. “The economic recession hit everyone hard, but we are increasing salaries over the two-year period to counteract it.”

The pay freeze meant that administrative staff earning salaries above $57,000 did not receive an increase in salary during the 2009-2010 school year.

“Our endowment dropped almost a third in value, so we would either have had to let valuable staff and faculty go or have raised tuition substantially,” said Alex Capron, president of the Academic Senate. “We didn’t want to resort to either.”

Capron said the Academic Senate agreed to the pay freeze after reviewing the university’s circumstances.

“It was the best solution in a bad situation,” he said.

Thanks to the pay freeze, USC was able to keep its faculty members and raise tuition by just 3.95 percent, the smallest percentage since 1969.

“Our main source of revenue is tuition, so we’re grateful that families and students continue to love us and to apply,” Levine said. “Our budget did very well compared to that of our peer institutions.”

USC plans to resume its salary increases next year.

“We set our salaries individually on the basis of merit, and we’re now determining the faculty salaries for next year,” Levine said. “The average increase will be appreciably greater than inflation over the last two years. We want to pay our faculty what they’re worth.”

The 1.2 percent national salary increase reported by the AAUP is the smallest jump in at least 50 years, falling even below the rate of inflation for the year, which was 2.7 percent.

According to Levine, USC’s faculty pay increases for the 2010-2011 school year will exceed the inflation rate for the same two-year period.

“Some universities always give increases on a two-year cycle,” he said. “We usually do it every year, but this time we’re doing it on a two-year basis.”

The AAUP report also did not include the effects of midyear salary cuts and furloughs at public universities.

“We use the data provided by universities at the beginning of their school year, and they weren’t anticipating furloughs and state budget cuts,” said John Curtis, AAUP director of research and public policy.

Curtis is currently working to find how much the furloughs at institutions like the University of California schools affected the AAUP’s average. The UC system reports that furloughs could account for anywhere from 4 to 10 percent of unreported salary decrease.

“Many of our peer universities across the country had furloughs not reflected in the [AAUP report’s] numbers,” Levine said. “We’re quite proud that we did not have furloughs or pay cuts.”

Curtis said the AAUP was expecting the drop in salary increases given the nation’s economic condition.

“We knew this year would be tough — our last report was titled ‘On the Brink,’” he said. “Higher education tends to take longer to recover from recessions than the economy as a whole does.”