Average salaries for USC faculty greatly exceeded the median for full professors, associate professors, assistant professors and instructors at 1,251 colleges, according to data released by the Chronicle of Higher Education last week.
The average salary is $155,900 for full professors, $105,300 for associate professors, $93,300 for assistant professors and $66,600 for instructors, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Marty Levine said that because USC sets salaries on an individual basis, the aggregated data is not that informational.
“The sort of generalized data discussed in the story by the Chronicle of Higher Education is of limited use,” Levine said. “USC sets salaries individually on a merit basis within the constraint that the budget has to balance.”
Since many factors affect average salary, such as the number of faculty and the expansion or contraction of particular programs, Levine said comparing salary between different universities is difficult.
“Those percentages are just a generalization,” Levine said. “Different universities have different disciplines. Some disciplines pay more than others.”
Female faculty at USC, with the exception of instructors, are paid less than male faculty by about six to 11 percent depending on their professor level, according to the data. Levine said the difference between pay is not a result of discrimination, a claim that the university has studied internally with the help of outside consultants.
“Within any given school, we have no discrimination on the basis of gender,” Levine said.
Instead, Levine said the salary disparity is more complex and dependent on a variety of factors, including area of expertise and pay raises.
“That university-wide differential happens to be the luck of which disciplines men are in and which disciplines women are in, or whether the men are more senior and have had more opportunity to get pay raises,” Levine said.
W. Norton Grubb, a professor at the Berkeley Graduate School of Education, said that a salary difference between genders is typical at most institutions of higher education. Grubb, whose expertise is in education policy, organization, measurement and evaluation, said the discrepancy can be explained by pay levels in varying fields of study.
Grubb said some high-paying fields, such as those in science, technology, engineering and math, are weighted toward one particular gender.
“[There are] a lot of STEM areas where there is a preponderance of males,” he said.
Grubb said another explanation for the salary differences between male and female faculty is that in the ’60s there were fewer women in academic life.
The full professor salary has risen by an average of $56,200 since 2000. The change for the typical doctoral institution since 2000 is $36,400, according to the study.
Levine said one way USC attracts professors to the university is by offering competitive salaries.
“We know we offer competitive salaries because we hire competitively,” he said. “We are successful in hiring because we are attractive in many ways, but one of the ways is that we offer competitive salaries.”
Levine said the process for determining faculty salaries varies from department and school but typically involves an annual report from each faculty member, a merit committee within each school, a salary recommendation from the dean and approval from the provost.
“We care about our faculty a lot,” Levine said. “We want to have the best possible faculty. We want to pay faculty what they are worth, and we ask all schools every year to reflect upon their faculty salaries to make sure we are paying faculty the right amount.”