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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Professor salaries below average

Professor salaries below average

Many UA faculty members have lower salaries than those at peer institutions — a fact that may not readily change due to budget constraints.

The average UA professor’s salary was $118,000 in 2009, which was 9 percent below the market average of $129,000, according to data from the UA Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support. UA salaries were compared to those at similar public research universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles, and Iowa State University, using data from the Association of American Universities Data Exchange.

Eleven of the 14 UA colleges, excluding the College of Medicine, paid professors below the market averages. Salaries at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Optical Sciences and Mel and Enid Zuckerman Arizona College of Public Health were above those at peer institutions.

Low compensation negatively affects faculty attraction and retention, according to Thomas Miller, associate provost for Faculty Affairs. He said the issue has been present at the UA since he arrived 22 years ago.

A lack of funding has nearly frozen faculty salaries, according to Miller. The university continues to face budget shortfalls with a proposed $78 million cut from the state for next year.

“”We have had intensifying problems with what we call salary compression,”” he said. “”The ceiling is rising sometimes. The lack of regular salary raises encourages people to look for jobs elsewhere under the assumption they may be able to get a counter-offer.””

Below-average salaries are common in Arizona universities. Fourteen out of 15 peer institutions pay higher faculty salaries than the UA, according to an Arizona Board of Regents personnel report. Thirteen of 15 peer universities pay faculty higher salaries than ASU, and all 15 peer institutions pay higher salaries than NAU.

“”If you’re not being competitive, you’ll start to recognize it’s not the same level of quality of people coming in,”” said Regent Rick Myers. “”It’s one of those things that creeps up on you over time.””

Arizona’s troubled economy is a main contributor to the problem, according to Myers.

“”We may have some attitude problems, but we have some real economic problems,”” Myers said. “”We don’t have enough money to do the things we need to.””

Universities are consumed with handling budget shortfalls, Myers said. He said he hopes the Legislature will eventually reinstate funding so compensation can improve.

“”None of us are happy with the situations we’re in,”” he said. “”We have to figure out a way to reward the people who are our best faculty.””

Professors may leave the university if they find they can make more money somewhere else. Forty tenured and tenure-track faculty left the UA last year, according to Miller. He said low salaries will have an increasingly negative effect on the UA as the economy improves around the nation.

“”A lot of other institutions will be hiring, and you can expect that faculty will look for jobs elsewhere,”” Miller said. “”There aren’t a lot of jobs out there at many institutions right now, so we’re not losing the number of faculty we’re going to lose.””

College deans targeted faculty at risk of leaving and raised their salaries last fall, according to Miller. He said the raises people receive after looking for jobs elsewhere can be problematic.

“”Other people equally successful in their departments don’t get raises,”” Miller said. “”You get a double-whammy, a double-impact on the morale of faculty. They see the only way to get a raise is to go out and apply for a job elsewhere.””

Linda Powers, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, came to the UA in 2007 as the Thomas R. Brown Chair in Bioengineering. Professor salaries at the College of Engineering were 12 percent below those at peer institutions in 2009.

“”Yes, I was aware the salary was low,”” Powers said. “”It wasn’t all that different from where I was before, which was in Utah. It had a number of other perks because of the endowed chair.””

Powers said she benefits from the extra research money provided by her endowed chair, but other faculty in the College of Engineering leave due to low salaries.

“”We lose them,”” Powers said. “”Other universities hire them away from us, especially our younger ones.””

Salary is only one factor among many that faculty consider when leaving the university, said Faculty Senate Chairwoman Wanda Howell.

“”Faculty generally move from one university to another because they see greater opportunity to do the work they do with collaboration and resources,”” she said.

The university environment and culture are important, but salary is a large consideration for professors accepting and keeping positions, Powers said.

“”Everybody has to live,”” she said. “”Tucson’s not cheap.””

For more information on UA employee salaries, visit the Daily Wildcat Datacenter

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