Salary increases for professors at most Chicago area colleges and universities fell behind the national average of 2.2 percent for the 2013-2014 academic year, a study being released Monday shows.
The biggest exceptions included Chicago State University, where full-time professors’ salaries jumped 9.6 percent from the previous year; the University of Chicago, 4.7 percent; Northeastern Illinois, 4.6 percent jump, and Northwestern University, 3.9 percent, according to the annual study issued by the American Association of University Professors, a professional organization in Washington, D.C. that advocates for academic freedom and quality higher education.
University of Chicago spokesman Jeremy Manier said in a statement issued Sunday, “Since its founding, the University has sought to bring together many of the world’s greatest scholars for transformative research and education. Sustaining that ambition requires significant resources, which the university and our supporters consider an important investment.”
Northeastern Illinois University spokeswoman Erika Krehbiel said the salary increases result partly from promotions and are part of a collective bargaining agreement. She said the university aims to keep its salaries competitive.
The other two universities did not respond to a request for comment.
The biggest declines in salary for full-time professors in the area were at Governors State University in south suburban University Park, with a 3.8 percent decline, and at Loyola University of Chicago, with a 3 percent drop, according to the latest data available.
Elaine P. Maimon, president of Governors State University, said Sunday that the decrease reflects that “several long-serving senior professors retired or resigned and were replaced by assistant or associate professors earning starting-level salaries.”
John Pelissero, provost at Loyola University, said Sunday that the university changed the date when it gives professors raises to Jan. 1 from July 1, so the data reflect an 18-month period from July 1, 2012, until Jan. 1, 2014, when no raises were given. He said university leaders made the change so they can see whether fall enrollment meets expectations before they decide on pay raises.
The 2.2 percent increase on the national level marks the first time in five years that professors have seen their pay exceed the inflation rate, said John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors.
Curtis said that’s because colleges and universities are starting to recover from the recession and are giving slightly more money toward faculty salaries. Salary increases haven’t yet rebounded to pre-recession levels, however, he said, pointing to a 3.4 increase in average salary reported in 2008-2009 from the previous year.
The study is titled “Losing Focus” because it reveals that, while colleges and universities have kept faculty salaries relatively steady, they are spending more on athletics and administrative jobs.
The study looked at the spending increases for athletics and administrative jobs over several years, rather than year by year.
The number of full-time non-faculty professional employees, such as lawyers, loan counselors and purchasing and human-resources agents, more than quadrupled — up 369 percent — from 1976 to 2011, the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Education.
The number of full-time senior administrators more than doubled — up 141 percent — between 1976 and 2011, while tenured and tenure-track faculty employment grew 23 percent over the same period.
The report also documented higher spending per athlete than on student instruction.
Between 2003-2004 and 2010-2011, inflation-adjusted per-student spending on instruction declined 8.5 percent at community colleges; inched up 1 percent at public four-year institutions; and increased 5 percent at private four-year institutions.
At the same time, spending per athlete jumped 35 percent at community colleges; 25 percent at public four-year schools; and 29 percent at private four-year colleges and universities, according to the report.
Data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association show that the most rapid increase in spending — a jump of 11.7 percent in median spending per student-athlete during the past decade —was in Division III, where there are no athletic scholarships or big-time television contracts.
Curtis said the numbers show that colleges and universities are using athletic participation as a draw to recruit students, much as they do with better food in the cafeterias and attractive, high-tech dorms.
Though the professors association makes no recommendations, Curtis said it’s time to debate whether sports should get so much attention, because only 23 of 1,000 colleges and universities in the NCAA data made money off of their athletics programs.
“All but a very few schools are spending more on athletics than they are bringing in,” he said.
Possible alternatives? Making the big-money college teams operate like baseball’s minor-league system, with college affiliations but no degrees being awarded to the players, or turning sports into recreational games rather than high-flying competitive ones, Curtis suggested.