ND faculty salaries slip during past two years
By TIM LOGAN
Senior Staff Writer
Faculty salaries are going up at universities nationwide and at Notre Dame, it is no different.
But while Notre Dame has talked of climbing into the very top echelon of national universities, pay for its teachers has slipped a bit in the last two years, relative to the competition. And this, some say, threatens to pull the school back into the pack.
An average full professor at Notre Dame earned $100,800 in 1999-2000, the 25th-highest average in the country. But the year before, Notre Dame's $98,100 was good for a No. 19 ranking. And in the 1997-98 academic year, the University placed 18th.
While pay hikes at Notre Dame still outpace the rate of inflation, which was 2.7 percent in 1999, they do not match spiraling growth in salaries in the job market, especially for full and top-quality associate professors. These high-profile academics, especially young up-and-comers who are visible in their field, add to a university's prestige, are in high demand, and are switching universities more frequently.
They are also commanding big bucks. And this means that money plays a big role in recruiting them.
"In order to compete for these people, you have to be salary-competitive," said Jeff Kantor, vice president and associate provost of the University.
Notre Dame is certainly competitive, but keeping up with other top schools has been a challenge. The University tries to stay in the top 20 percent of 190 major universities in terms of pay, Kantor said, and thus far it has succeeded.
But Notre Dame's rankings in pay for mid-level faculty – associates and assistants – has plummeted in the last three years, almost out of that top 20 percent. In 1997-98, Notre Dame ranked 20th in average associate pay and 18th in pay for assistant professors. Last year, it was 33rd and 39th, respectively.
Kantor, who closely monitors Notre Dame's rankings, said this decline must not last.
"We can't be complacent," he said. "If you're complacent, you'll not be able to recruit that top young and mid-career faculty."
Don Howard, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate, agrees that Notre Dame needs to step up its efforts to pay its professors more.
"You want to hire the best faculty," said Howard. "If you want to hire the best faculty, you should go out and pay them the going rate."
Of course, money is not the only factor. Location, facilities, quality of a university and a department, and countless other things figure into a professor's decision on where to teach. And one factor that definitely favors Notre Dame is cost of living. A dollar goes farther in South Bend than in Boston or Berkeley.
Most professors are recruited by the departments in which they will work, and both hiring success and pay scales vary greatly across the University. Salaries in certain fields – particularly business, law and engineering – tend to be higher, while humanities professors are on the lower end of the stick.
But the growth is there in nearly all fields. Howard, a philosophy professor, has been surprised by the asking price for some good associate professors.
"We've suffered from sticker shock when we saw the kinds of monies being talked about," he said. "We thought that we'd paid good salaries here and we were surprised to see how far behind the curve we are."
Catching up to that curve is a challenge, and even with the success of the Generations Campaign, which will close this month having raised more than $1 billion, paying the going rate for top professors is difficult.
Rising faculty salaries, combined with pressure to keep tuition hikes low, have fueled much of the budget crunch which University President Father Edward Malloy warned the faculty of earlier this semester.
"We're predominantly salary-driven," Kantor said. "And therefore salary issues tend to drive our budget more than other parts."
There are also calls for more professors, in order to have smaller class sizes and to conduct more research. Last spring, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution asking for 150 new faculty seats to be created with money from the endowment. The Academic Council is currently studying the issue, and if they, and the Board of Trustees afterwards, decide that such a move is a good idea, Notre Dame will dive into the hiring market head first, and face the challenge of recruiting top professors yet again.
That challenge will have a big bearing on the future of the University.
"It's a competition, and to be competitive you have to be competitive on a number of fronts," Kantor said.
All News Stories for Tuesday, December 5, 2000