UPDATE: Inflation gobbling up WNC university professors’ raises

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This story, which originally appeared on Dec. 13, was updated on Dec. 15 to reflect changes to proposed tuition increases.

Proposed tuition increases offer some respite

Appalachian State University assistant professor Jennifer Burris, Ph.D, speaks, on Dec. 6, with students about a physics project during student research presentations. On Dec. 14, the ASU board of trustees will consider a 6.5 percent tuition increase. The budget has no provisions for increasing staff pay with the additional $4 million in revenue. Hank Shell/Carolina Public Press

The good news for professors at the three public universities in Western North Carolina is that they got raises this year. The bad news is that the raises aren’t much and that they’re less than the rate of inflation.

In June, the N.C. General Assembly gave all state employees, including faculty at the 17 University of North Carolina-system schools, a 1.2 percent raise, appropriating $22.2 million to do so. The rate of inflation this year stood at 2.2 percent in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Inflation’s toll on professors’ salary – on everyone’s wages, really – is historic. The American Association of University Professors surveyed 1,251 colleges about how much they paid their full-time faculty members during the 2011-2012 academic year and found that their average 1.8 percent raises were swallowed by 3 percent inflation.

Tuition increases proposed

Over the past three decades, at a time when tuition and fees at public institutions increased 72 percent, salaries of professors at public colleges and universities, adjusted for inflation, rose by less than 1 percent at doctoral and baccalaureate institutions and fell by more than 5 percent at master’s institutions, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, a Washington, D.C.-based news source for college and university faculty members and administrators.

Trustees at the three public universities in Western North Carolina – Appalachian State University, UNC Asheville and Western Carolina University – have approved or are preparing to approve budget requests for the 2013-2014 school year.

Included in those budgets are tuition and fee increases that offer some respite to professor pay, if only in adding additional positions to the staff.

The universities will send their budget requests on for final approval to the UNC Board of Governors, whose action in January must be approved by the General Assembly.

Appalachian State University, UNCA and Western Carolina University leaders have all considered tuition increases:

  • On Dec. 3, UNCA’s trustees voted to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state undergraduates from $3,476 to $3,666 for the 2013-2014 academic year – an increase of 5.5 percent – for 2013-14 (the same $190 applies to graduate students as well). Some of that money will go toward increasing faculty salaries.
  • On Dec. 7, WCU’s board of trustees voted to increase tuition from $3,397 to $3,669, an 8 percent increase, for in-state undergraduates for the 2013-2014 school year. Twenty percent of the increase would be used for faculty merit salary raises. Another 20 percent would be used to add faculty to high-demand programs.
  • On Dec. 14, the ASU board of trustees voted to increase tuition by 6.5 percent, from $3,542 to $3,772 for the upcoming school year. The budget has no provisions for increasing staff pay with the additional $4 million in revenue. But it proposes using about a quarter of it to re-establish nine or 10 faculty positions.

How do WNC’s professor salaries compare?

Lecturer Derek Davidson talks with students during a playwriting class on Dec. 7 at Appalachian State University. Of the three public universities in Western North Carolina, ASU currently pays its full professors the best, on average – $89,300, compared to $88,800 at Western Carolina University and $84,600 at UNC Asheville for the 2012-2013 academic year, according to the 2012 Faculty Salary Survey. Hank Shell/Carolina Public Press

Of the three public universities in Western North Carolina, ASU currently pays its full professors the best, on average – $89,300, compared to $88,800 at WCU and $84,600 at UNCA for the year 2012-2013, according to the 2012 Faculty Salary Survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Among private colleges in the area, full professors average $63,300 at Warren Wilson College, $57,000 at Mars Hill College, $50,500 at Brevard College and $49,800 at Lees-McRae College, according to the 2012 Faculty Salary Survey.

The study also found that associate professors’ average pay is $70,200 at ASU, $72,300 at WCU, $67,500 at UNCA, $53,300 at Warren Wilson College, $49,100 at Mars Hill College, $42,700 at Brevard College and $40,300 at Lees-McRae College. Assistant professors and instructors are paid less, on average.

Below are further details on what the survey revealed about pay scales at the region’s major universities:

ASU: The $89,300 average that ASU, a public master’s institution with about 17,000 students, pays its full professors puts it in the 55th percentile of master’s institutions that responded to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s survey. ASU’s pay for full professors placed it slightly above reported salaries for full professors, which ranged from $45,200 to $141,900.

Full professors at ASU average $24,900 more in salary in 2012 than in 2000, compared to $25,250 during that same time period for the “typical master’s institution” across the nation, according to the study.

The $70,200 that ASU pays its associate professors on average put it in the 52 percentile of its peer institutions. ASU placed in the 56th percentile of peer institutions with the $60,500 in average pay it gave assistant professors. The money it pays instructors on average – $58,100 – is far above median, placing it in the 87th percentile of salaries, which ranged from $23,400 to $84,100.

WCU: WCU, a public master’s institution with about 9,600 students, pays its full professors an average of $88,800, putting it in the 54th percentile of master’s institutions that responded to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s survey. WCU’s pay for full professors placed it slightly above reported averages for full professors, with salaries that ranged from $45,200 to $141,900.

Full professors at WCU averaged $23,500 more in pay in 2012 than in 2000, compared to $25,250 more for similar institutions across the nation.

The $72,300 that WCU pays its associate professors on average put it in the 62nd percentile of its peer institutions. It placed in the 37th percentile of peer institutions with the $57,500 in average pay it gave assistant professors. The money it pays instructors on average – $46,800 – is also below median, placing it in the 46th percentile of salaries that ranged from $23,400 to $84,100.

UNC Asheville: UNCA, a baccalaureate institution with about 3,500 students, pays its full professors an average of $84,600, putting it in the 67th percentile of peer institutions that responded to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s survey. UNCA’s pay for full professors placed it above reported averages for full professors, with overall salaries ranging from $44,400 to $167,300.

Full professors at UNCA are averaging $19,400 more than they received in 2000, compared to $21,8000 nationally for the similar institutions.

The $67,500 that UNCA pays its associate professors on average put it in the 67th percentile of its peer institutions. It placed in the 79th percentile of peer institutions with the $61,700 in average pay it gave assistant professors. UNCA did not report data about instructors’ salaries.

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Paul Clark

Paul Clark is a contributing reporter for Carolina Public Press. Contact him at paulgclark@charter.net.

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