April 13, 2021
Average faculty pay fell by 0.4 percent this year, adjusting for inflation, the first such decrease since 2011-12, according to preliminary data from the American Association of University Professors’ annual Faculty Compensation Survey.
This top-line figure doesn’t tell the full story of how academic salaries have fared during COVID-19. Just as the pandemic has had an outsize effect on certain parts of society and the economy, it’s affected faculty compensation at certain kinds of institutions, at certain ranks, more than others.
Faculty compensation data don’t show what isn’t there, either. Some institutions’ faculty compensation figures actually increased this year over last simply because they laid off some of their lowest-paid professors during the pandemic.
Of course, faculty compensation isn’t just about salaries. Many institutions reduced or cut fringe benefits this year. And it’s unclear when or whether some of these colleges and universities will restore them.
“There were those [institutions] that were already in financial trouble,” said Glenn Colby, senior researcher at the AAUP. “And in those cases, they cut fringe benefits for salaries and let people go — didn’t renew contracts of non-tenure-track people and things like that. And I think it’s going to be worse in the fall.”