Study: teachers’ pay lags behind coaches’

By Alissa Groeninger

After conducting a 1,400-school survey at the end of last year, the American Association of University Professors found that the incomes of professors at public colleges and universities are being forced to compete with the salaries paid to football coaches, the lack of state funding and inflation.

According to the Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession for 2007-08, senior professors’ salaries are 10 times lower than the salaries paid to head Division I football coaches.

“The most interesting thing to me is what the spending of colleges and universities reflects regarding the importance of educating students,” said Saranna Thornton, a professor who works for the American Association of University Professors and an economy professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

Assistant Director in the Office of University Relations Mike Lillich said schools, including the University, must do so to remain competitive.

He added that this is the way competitive athletic conferences, including the Big Ten, operate.

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Another issue raised by the report’s findings is the gap between the earnings of professors at public and private schools, a trend during the past decade.

According to the report, professors at private research institutions make an average of 20 percent more than their counterparts at public research institutions.

Thornton said the danger is that public schools may have a difficult time attracting and keeping professors.

“Higher education is a real competitive game,” Lillich said. “Everybody is playing hard. It’s a tough time for the publics.”

Fred Gottheil, professor of economics at the University, said private schools are immune to the lack of finances state legislators can offer and can continue to offer more competitive salaries, making it difficult for professors at public institutions.

Lillich said the private schools also receive significant extra funding from individuals and companies.

Public schools rely on finances from the state, and the state has not been able to support them this decade, said W. Randall Kangas, assistant vice president for planning and budgeting for the University.

Full-time instructional faculty members at the University made $95,700 on average during the 2007 fiscal year.

Professors at the University of Wisconsin average less than that figure.

At the University of Chicago, a private school, teachers and researchers made an average of $129,700 last year.

Kangas said the University was financially competitive through the 2002 fiscal year and is not significantly behind where it was in 2002.

“What I’m worried about is that colleges and universities work hard to save costs but keep education good,” Thornton added.

The University is working to find ways to pay faculty fair salaries.

In January there was a research summit to make sure all resources for paying staff and providing quality education were being utilized.

Kangas said Gov. Rod Blagojevich does not intend to increase funds given to colleges, but the University is asking for more funds to pay faculty.

The University budget request, which includes all three of its campuses, asks for funds that will allow salary levels to remain competitive within the market in order to keep and attract the best teachers and researchers.

The University is asking for a 3 percent increase in funds for faculty salaries and a 1.5 percent increase in finances for the recruitment, retention and compression of faculty, according to the University’s fiscal year 2009 budget request.

The American Association of University Professors looks at changing salaries every year.

This year they selected specific topics they thought were important to the state of education.

“I think a lot of us have questions about how important the core value of education is,” Thornton said.