Paid below par

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April 19, 2011

2:48 AM

Something is tempting professors at the College of William and Mary to stay, and it’s not the cash.

The recently released 2010-2011 American Association of University Professors faculty salary report revealed that the average professor salary at the College is well below that of its peer institutions.

“A lot of people like it here, so they stay,” economics professor and Director of Africana Studies Berhanu Abegaz said. “We don’t have a high turnover rate; that’s not an indication that people aren’t happy with their salary, but that they are happy with William and Mary. But you can only push people so far.”

The average salary for College professors in the current academic year is $111,800. In comparison, at the University of Virginia the average professor salary is $136,000, while Georgetown University averages $158,900, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill averages $143,000 and Duke University averages $163,400.

“Well, U.Va is somewhat richer than we are,” College president Taylor Reveley said. “And other peer colleges are richer than we are, but our academic caliber is at least the same as theirs.”

Several of these peer institutions are private and have larger endowments than the College. But according to the AAUP report, the College’s average professor salary is about $12,000 less than the average professor salary in its region. This region, as described by the AAUP, includes colleges in Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The College is defined as a Category I institution by the report, meaning that it is “characterized by a significant level and breadth of activity in doctoral-level education.” Category I universities grant at least thirty doctoral-level degrees per year in at least three different programs.

The College is currently ranked in the 40th percentile for professor salaries among the other 228 Category I institutions included in the study. The average professor salary among Category I public universities is $118,054, while the average professor salary among all Category I institutions is $127,296.

According to Reveley, there have been no faculty salary increases in the past three years and none are planned for the next year. Many institutions are fairing similarly, and some even more poorly: 30.3 percent of the institutions tabulated experienced a decline in their average professor salary from the 2009-2010 academic year to the current 2010-2011 academic year.

Despite its funding challenges, the College was just named the fifth best institution for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News and World Report.

“Salary isn’t the only thing that makes faculty happy — research support, students and a sense of appreciation that you get from the administration go a long way,” Abegaz said.

According to Provost Michael Halleran, the College is currently working to retain high-quality faculty through endowed professorships that recognize valued faculty and offer slightly higher compensation.

“Longer term, our strategic plan also has as one goal getting our faculty salaries to the 60th percentile of our peer group,” Halleran said. “Reaching this goal and recruiting and retaining excellent faculty are critical to our ongoing success as a great liberal arts university.”

One reason professors cite as contributing to their decision to remain at the College is the low student-to-faculty ratio, which allows for closer interactions with students and more research opportunities.

“Our first priority is to protect the faculty-student interaction,” Vice President for Finance Sam Jones ’75 M.B.A. ’80 said.

For some professors at the College, however, the lure of higher pay at other institutions proves too enticing.

“[The fact that faculty leave their universities for better paying jobs] is true across the country,” new Board of Visitors Rector Jeffrey Trammell ’73 said. “There have been a few over the last one to two years. This is not unusual, historically. When in times of economic recession, professors will become more mobile.”

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