Paul L. Caron

Monday, July 26, 2021

Higher Ed Faces Existential Threat: Numbers And Salaries Are Down For Tenure-Track/Tenured Faculty, Way Up For Administrators; University Long-Term Debt Is Up 71%

AAUP, The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2020-21:

AAUP (2021)This year’s Annual Report on the Economic Profession outlines how years of unstable funding, combined with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have created an existential threat to shared governance and academic freedom in higher education that severely weakens our nation’s ability to effectively educate our communities. The report presents findings from three related studies conducted by the AAUP Research Department: the AAUP’s annual Faculty Compensation Survey, a follow-up COVID-19 survey, and secondary data analyses of faculty and staff employment and institutional finance data. The Faculty Compensation Survey findings indicate that real wages for full-time faculty members decreased, on average; a majority of institutions reported decreases in average real wages for full-time faculty members and in the numbers of them employed. Findings from the COVID-19 survey document institutional responses to the pandemic that included salary freezes or reductions, elimination or reduction of fringe benefits, and terminations or nonrenewals of faculty appointments. Finally, the secondary data analyses characterize long-standing economic crises in higher education—declining fiscal support, over-reliance on contingent faculty, growth of administrations, and spiraling institutional debt—and highlight the need for a New Deal for Higher Education, as called for by the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and other allies.

Key Findings from the 2020–21 Faculty Compensation Survey ...
The survey found that real wages for full-time faculty decreased 0.4 percent, the first decrease since the Great Recession, after adjusting for inflation (the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, increased 1.4 percent in 2020). In nominal terms, average wages for all ranks of full-time faculty increased 1.0 percent, the lowest increase since the AAUP began tracking annual wage growth in 1972. Real wages decreased at 67.9 percent of participating colleges and universities, and the number of full-time faculty members employed decreased at 61.5 percent of participating institutions.


Key Findings from the 2020–21 Follow-Up COVID-19 Survey
US colleges and universities have taken a wide range of actions in response to financial difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when many institutions were already struggling to balance their budgets, many lowered their expenditures by implementing hiring freezes, salary cuts, fringe benefit cuts, furloughs, and layoffs. ...

The follow-up COVID-19 survey found that more than half (54.7 percent) of the responding institutions froze or reduced salaries and more than a quarter (27.7 percent) eliminated or reduced fringe benefits for full-time faculty members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 5 percent of institutions terminated the appointments of at least some full-time tenure-line faculty members, and almost 20 percent terminated the appointments of or denied contract renewal to at least some full-time non-tenure-track faculty members. Almost 10 percent of institutions implemented furloughs, and over 40 percent implemented tenure-clock modifications.


Key Findings from Secondary Data Analyses
The AAUP Research Department conducted three related secondary data analyses, analyzing longitudinal data to understand long-standing economic crises in higher education that are highly relevant in the current economic setting and to calls by the AAUP, the American Federation, and other allies for a New Deal for Higher Education.

  1. Faculty Contingency
    The study examined the prevalence of contingent faculty appointments from fall 2006 to fall 2019. Such appointments pose an existential threat to academic freedom, which is best protected by tenured appointments.
    Key Finding: In fall 2019, 63.0 percent of faculty members were on contingent appointments; 20.0 percent were full-time contingent faculty members and 42.9 percent were part-time contingent faculty members. Only 26.5 percent of faculty members were tenured and 10.5 percent were on tenure track. ...
  2. Growth of Administration
    The study examined the growth from 2011–12 to 2018–19 of upper-level administration in higher education, a trend that puts shared governance at risk.
    Key Finding: From fiscal year 2011–12 to fiscal year 2018–19, the numbers of staff classified as “management” increased 12 percent per FTE student, real average salaries increased 7 percent, and salary outlays per FTE student increased 19 percent, including an extraordinary 24 percent increase in real salary expenditures per FTE student in public colleges and universities. ...
  3. Institutional Debt
    The study examined the explosion of institutional debt, which might limit an institutions’ options for dealing with adversity, from 2008–09 to 2018–19.
    Key Finding: US colleges and universities reported a total of over $336 billion in long-term debt in fiscal year 2018–19, a growth of 71.1 percent since fiscal year 2008–09. Long-term debt at public institutions grew 50.2 percent, while long-term debt among private institutions grew 116.0 percent.

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