Faculty salaries not to blame for tuition hikes

By Editorial Board

Columbia’s tuition will increase approximately 5 percent next semester, President Warrick L. Carter announced earlier this year. Why tuition was raised is still hazy, and no clear answers have been given. But some, such as Vice President Joe Biden, are blaming college professors and their salaries for nationwide tuition hikes.

Biden and David C. Levy, president of Cambridge Information Group, are both mistaken in their assumptions that faculty pay is at fault for tuition increases, according to a new report from the American Association of University Professors. When the data is analyzed carefully, it is clear that faculty pay is not to blame.

First of all, the rate at which tuition is rising is much faster than that of faculty salary increases. According to the AAUP report, private four-year colleges increased their tuition rates by 28.9 percent in the last decade, while faculty salary increases have ranged only from 1.9–7.7 percent.

This means that tuition increases at four-year private universities and colleges were more than double the increases in full-time faculty salaries. In other words, it makes no sense that faculty salaries, especially for part-timers, would cause a yearly increase in tuition.

In fact, many colleges realize significant savings in faculty salaries. Part-time faculty makes up approximately 40 percent of total faculty at most colleges, yet they tend to be the lowest paid, according to the AAUP report. While the number of faculty is increasing each year, salaries either remain stagnant or increase very little.

For the last two years, P-Fac, Columbia’s part-time faculty union, and administrators have strained to agree on a fair contract. P-Fac has claimed time and again that they are underpaid and treated unfairly compared to full-time faculty.

Meanwhile, presidents across the country have fared better in protecting their own salaries from budget cuts. From 2009–2011, university and college presidents have seen a salary increase of almost 2 percent, according to the AAUP report. But faculty salaries have seen an average 1.3 percent cumulative salary decrease since 2009. If faculty salaries are to blame for tuition increases, then administrators’ salaries must hold some responsibility, as well.

It makes no sense to assume that faculty salaries are main reasons for rising tuition. Before administrators and politicians begin pointing the finger at faculty, they should set the example for change, just like Birmingham-Southern College President Charles Krulak, who forfeited his first year’s salary to show his commitment to restoring the college’s fiscal well-being. Not every administrator is expected to give up their salary. But playing the blame game with faculty will just perpetuate a volatile, ongoing issue.