2007-08 Report on the Economic Status of the Profession

Surprisingly, and unfortunately, the second and third largest growth rates in higher education personnel are in the categories of full- and part-time non-tenure-track faculty—both of which increased by over 200 percent. These two categories comprise the contingent faculty. Contingent faculty are ostensibly hired to provide universities with a flexible labor pool that can be expanded or reduced when enrollments in particular programs fluctuate, but the enormous growth in contingent faculty relative to full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty and relative to the growth in student enrollments is far greater than might be justified by an argument for flexibility. Other factors are driving this trend.

AAUP Annual Report on Faculty Salaries

I’ve know about these numbers all of my professional life, but each time they are reiterated my shock is renewed. “Full-time, nonfaculty professional staff grew,” for example, “at the highest rate—281 percent between 1976 and 2005.” Perhaps part of that, as they say, is due to the new high-tech, labor intensive system. And, of course, the country and the university system itself has grown.

“In sharp contrast to the dramatic growth in employment of contingent faculty members and full-time nonfaculty professionals,” the report says, “the number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty grew by only 17 percent over the last three decades.” Inside the chasm created by these two numbers lies the real story of the remaking of the U.S. University.

It’s a very traditional kind of de-skilling, accompanied, of course, by a gradual but inevitable speed up: “And data from the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty on hours worked by full-time faculty show that the average workweek actually lengthened slightly, from 52.7 to 53.4 hours, between 1987 and 2003.” This helps to create a kind of self-regulatory pressure.

The post-public University system has to earn its profits somehow, and in order to do that it has to marshal its resources carefully. “In 2007–08, the average salary of the coaches is $1,040,863, a 12.4 percent increase over the $925,683 average paid in 2006–07.” Even the superstar professors, it seems, cannot compete with the superstar athletic programs.

There are some interesting regional differences, but in general these sports mega-complexes are, perhaps like all corporations, less profitable than they seem. “National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) data for 2002–03 indicated,’ for example, “that 68 percent of Division I-A programs reported profits, 28 percent reported budget deficits, and 4 percent reported breaking even.”

“By contrast, the average salary of full professors at these universities in 2007–08 is $104,523, 3.5 percent more than the $100,998 paid in 2006–07.” These are those professors Charlie Gibson was ridiculed about; he had a good idea of what a reasonable salary might be for them but no sense that it’s very rare it is to find a reasonable university.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn’t want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so.

I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com.

I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that ‘at’ symbol] writinginthewild.com

One Thought on “2007-08 Report on the Economic Status of the Profession

  1. Thanks for the post

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