The University of Rochester paid its professors the most of any local college or university for the 2008-09 academic year, a survey by the American Association of University Professors shows.
UR paid its professors an average salary of $124,400, the highest locally and No. 16 statewide. That rate of pay put the university’s percentile rank in the mid-70s among doctoral institutions nationwide.
The association conducts annual surveys of average pay for professors, associate professors, assistant professors and instructors. Salaries are adjusted to a nine-month work year and cover full-time members of an institution’s instructional staff, except those in medical schools. Averages are further broken down for men and women.
The results showed that locally, as was the case statewide and nationally, men earned more than women by a margin as large as 22 percent. Pay generally was highest at doctoral institutions, followed by master’s institutions and then baccalaureate institutions. Pay was lowest at two-year colleges.
The survey for 2008-09 contains data for 1,171 schools. The highest-paying school on the list was Harvard University, where professors made $192,600 on average. Columbia University paid the most of any school in New York, with an average of $178,800.
UR also had the highest local salaries for its associate professors and assistant professors, who earned $89,600 and $82,400 respectively.
Rochester Institute of Technology had the second-highest average professor salary among local schools at $108,800. Associate professors at RIT earned an average of $82,400, and assistant professors earned $68,400 on average.
At St. John Fisher College, professors had an average salary of $84,000. Nazareth College of Rochester paid professors $79,700 on average. At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, professors were paid an average of $104,200, and Keuka College paid professors $71,000 on average.
SUNY College at Brockport had the highest average salary among all local state institutions. Professors there earned an average of $94,500 and associate professors $71,700. SUNY College at Geneseo paid professors an average of $83,900.
Empire State College, which offers SUNY degrees at 35 locations in the state including online, paid professors $80,700 on average. Empire State College maintains centers in Rochester, Canandaigua and Batavia.
At two-year public institutions, Monroe Community College had the highest-paid professors locally with an average of $81,500. Professors at Finger Lakes Community College earned $72,800 on average, and those at Genesee Community College were paid $65,800.
Salaries can be important benchmarks for institutions, but only when viewed in proper context, said Ralph Kuncl, UR provost and executive vice president.
To better understand how well it is attracting professors, UR and other schools look to smaller slices of colleges and universities for comparison. In UR’s case, that means a cursory comparison with the nation’s 225 doctoral institutions but a much deeper evaluation against a group of 16 research universities within the Association of American Universities.
This group includes private research institutions, almost all of which have medical schools. It includes Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, Syracuse University and Vanderbilt University.
"That is what I call our aspirational peer group," Kuncl said. "They are all well-known and elite and all much bigger than we are."
When compared against all doctoral institutions, UR’s percentile rank for professor pay drops from the mid-70s closer to the 40th percentile. When salary figures are adjusted for how the cost of living varies from one university town to another, UR does much better, Kuncl said.
Lenore Friend, a spokeswoman for FLCC, said the AAUP survey is useful for providing some perspective on salaries but more meaningful comparisons must take into account the makeup of the professor pool.
Factors such as average years of service and the number of recent retirements would be needed for a better assessment, she said.
To benchmark its professor salaries,
FLCC looks to a group of similar colleges-Corning Community College, GCC, Niagara County Community College and Mohawk Valley Community College. Among those, it offers the second-highest salaries, behind only Niagara County.
Anne Kress, MCC president, said having a competitive salary is an advantage when recruiting professors but salary alone paints an incomplete picture. The numbers reported in the survey do not account for other types of compensation and benefits.
"We show the whole picture, not just what we’re going to pay but benefits and the fit of someone with the culture of the institution," Kress said.
Some trends become more evident in examination of the salaries of assistant and associate professors. UR has put more attention to attracting young professors by paying higher starting salaries at these levels, Kuncl said. The university’s $82,400 average for assistant professors ranks close to the 90th percentile among doctoral institutions.
"I know our salary performance is doing better over the years, and in part our ability to attract early-career faculty is improving because of the attention paid to hiring salaries for assistant professors," Kuncl said.
RIT’s effort to increase its national stature is not readily apparent in its numbers. But for benchmarking it uses a mix of schools closer to itself in size and programs and others it aspires to be like, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In its analysis, RIT uses a complex system that looks at peer sets at the institutional and department levels of those schools.
"RIT is in a transitory position right now, shifting from a regional university to a national university," said Jeremy Haefner, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "You can tell in the salaries we pay, which are getting closer to our national university competitors than we were 10 to 20 years ago. That speaks highly of the shared vision this institution has for elevating its stature and achieving this level of excellence."
At every level-locally, statewide and nationally-male professors frequently were paid more than women.
At times the gaps were large: Female professors at RIT earned 22 percent less than their male counterparts, and the gap at UR was 18 percent. At only two schools-MCC and Nazareth College-did female professors earn more than male, and in those cases the margin was small.
Female professors at Nazareth were paid $80,500, roughly 2 percent more than men, who earned $79,000. MCC female professors earned a little more than 1 percent more than men-$82,000 to $81,000. At St. John Fisher, male professors narrowly earned more than women-$84,000 to $83,900-but women earned more as associate professors, assistant professors and instructors.
In general, it was at two-year institutions that women earned more than male counterparts. Across the state there were six other two-year institutions where women had a higher average salary than men. At each of the 24 doctoral institutions in New York, male professors earned more than females.
Kress said much of the parity at two-year institutions has to do with their status as teaching colleges without pressure for professors to conduct research and publish.
"We’re not asking faculty to identify grant funding or publish research, and in many ways that makes it easier to come to a place like MCC and have a family," Kress said.
Kuncl said other factors are at play. The salary survey reflects large pools of professors rather than individual salaries, and within those pools can be discrepancies, he said. One of the largest factors determining pay is the academic discipline, Kuncl said, and in many disciplines men traditionally have held a larger share of the field than women.
Philosophy has historically been male-dominated, with women making up 15 percent of the field. Women are nearly 50 percent of faculty in some sciences such as biological sciences, but they command a far smaller share of the engineering professorships, he said.
"The pattern of disciplines in a private university will largely determine whether there are male-female differences," Kuncl said.
At RIT, mechanical engineering professor Margaret Bailey obtained a grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate differences between men and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-so-called STEM fields. Haefner said the study results will offer guidance for systemic change.
Bailey is executive director of the Women in Engineering Program at RIT, an effort to engage middle-school and high-school girls in STEM disciplines. The program is one piece of the college’s "long-term pipeline effort" to bring more women into the sciences, from the undergraduate level through professorship, Haefner said.
The study of gaps in pay and faculty positions will expand to other disciplines as well, he said.
"My goal is to really insist we pay attention to this when we’re making our hires, because it’s at the letter-of-offer stage where this gap can get started," Haefner said.
The other major factor influencing the pay gap is the length of time in service at a given rank, Kuncl said. When men or women remain longer as assistant professors rather than moving up to full professors, it can skew salary rankings, but this would not be evident by looking at the association’s survey, he said.
More detailed conclusions would take a finely detailed study of whether men and women in the same discipline serving for the same period of time are paid equally, which UR does conduct, Kuncl said.
"We do that because we are committed to the equitable treatment by gender and by other underrepresented status groupings," he said.
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