This article is one of a three-part data-driven series in which The Michigan Daily obtained and analyzed annual university Salary Disclosure Reports from 2002-2020. Salary Disclosure Reports are released every year from the Office of Human Resources, the Office of Budget Planning and other departments. You can find the other articles in this series here and here.
For the purpose of data analysis, The Michigan Daily distinguished “faculty” as tenured and tenure-track faculty, clinical faculty, research faculty, research scientists and lecturers; and “staff” as any employee of the University not considered faculty, including administrators, custodial staff and Division of Public Safety and Security officers.
According to the University of Michigan 2020 Salary Disclosure Reports released last December, employees at the Ann Arbor campus made a cumulative total of almost $4 billion, with a median salary of $70,219.20. Of the 48,243 U-M faculty and staff that were included in the report, 46,187 were from the Ann Arbor campus.
Faculty members at the Ross School of Business have the highest median salary of $223,168, and faculty at the School of Dentistry have the lowest median salary of $80,370.91. The median salary of Business lecturers in 2020 was $145,393.12, which is almost $25,000 more than the median salary of LSA professors.
The College of Engineering and LSA fall sixth and twelfth on the list of highest median salaries, but the two have the highest undergraduate enrollments of 9,669 and 19,649, respectively. The College of Engineering and LSA are also the largest recipients of money from the University’s general fund and employ the most faculty and staff of the undergraduate schools.
The general fund is comprised of student tuition and fees, state support and sponsored research funds, and is used to pay for teaching, student services, facilities and administrative support.
The Michigan Daily took an in-depth look at the salaries of faculty and staff in the College of Engineering and LSA and found that the cumulative salary for a given department is not necessarily proportional to how many people it employs.
College of Engineering and LSA salaries in the context of the University as a whole
The median salary for all faculty and staff at U-M’s Ann Arbor campus is $70,219.20. The Daily found that the College of Engineering and LSA employees had higher median salaries compared to U-M Ann Arbor employees as a whole. Of the 3,308 LSA employees, the median salary of all faculty and staff is $75,226.89. Of the 1,626 total College of Engineering employees, the median salary of all faculty and staff is $89,637.46.
The median salary specifically for faculty members at U-M Ann Arbor is $145,794.64. The Daily found that the median salaries of College of Engineering and LSA faculty members are both below the overall Ann Arbor U-M faculty median. The median salary of the 569 faculty members in the College of Engineering is $140,871.76, and the median salary of the 1,753 faculty members in LSA is $98,240.02. The Daily also found that faculty who work at the University for longer time periods earn more money on average.
Compared to the other schools and colleges, LSA and the College of Engineering fall second and third behind Michigan Medical school in terms of cumulative faculty salaries, totaling $193,194,800.39 and $86,741,748.85 respectively.
Inter-departmental size and salary differences
According to the Salary Disclosure Report, LSA faculty in the economics, political science and physics departments respectively have the highest median salaries. Comparatively, faculty in the nuclear engineering and radiological sciences department have the highest median salaries in the engineering school, followed by the climate and space sciences engineering and naval architecture and marine engineering departments.
Engineering freshman Maria Fields, CSG representative, said she could understand how factors like research and industry play into salaries in tech and engineering departments.
“U-M is such a large research institution and obviously there is research in all fields, but I think because tech and engineering is such a booming industry, it would make sense that the faculty salaries (in those departments) might be higher,” Fields said. “Everyone’s work is valuable, but in that sense when you look at where society is when it comes to technology and where we’re going, I think that finding people who are contributing to that, especially with how much research is done here, investing in that and finding people who can contribute to that and attracting certain people, so an incentive of money would be a pretty effective way to do that.”
In LSA specifically, faculty in humanities departments earned a median salary of $83,180.80, faculty in STEM departments earned a median salary of $113,146.18 and faculty in social science departments earned a median salary of $122,636.90.
When looking at all College of Engineering and LSA departments, eight had median faculty salaries that fell below the U-M Ann Arbor median employee salary. Of these departments, seven are in LSA. Of the top 10 LSA and College of Engineering departments with the highest median salaries, eight are in engineering. Elkolaly said this is not surprising because of the high salaries among the engineering and technology industry as a whole.
The Daily found that while some departments employ different numbers of professors and lecturers, they have comparable combined salaries. While the LSA English department employs 19 more professors and 16 more lecturers than the economics department, the economics department employees make $754,892.59 more in total annually.
On the flip side, The Daily also found that while some departments employ a similar number of faculty, their cumulative salaries differ widely.
The LSA romance languages & literature and LSA psychology departments both employ 104 faculty members, but the psychology department’s total salary is 1.75 times greater than the romance languages & literature department, with a difference of $5,874,509.66 in their cumulative salaries. Fields said this is also not surprising to her.
“I think the most interesting thing is that the more money you invest in something, the more you’re saying that it is more valuable,” Fields said.
LSA sophomore Vincent Pinti, CSG representative, said there is a bias between certain professors and professions that are deemed more practical.
“The University is trying to retain quality professors, and in doing that they are upping the pay for individuals who are more in demand, like a psychology professor, or chemistry professor or engineering professor for example,” Pinti said. “I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t like it because my major is Political Science and Spanish, and I love the disciplines, I think they bring great benefits to me, but there definitely is bias there.”
Factors that play a role in faculty salary decisions
According to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, there are many factors that go into the decision-making process for faculty salaries at U-M. Fitzgerald wrote in an email to The Daily that salaries are decided at the “school and college level” and are driven by several market factors, including the availability of qualified employees, the regional level of recruiting, the number of available positions and benchmarking against peer institutions.
“The wages that the University pays for any particular position – whether in LSA, Engineering or any other unit – are affected by many factors in the job market,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The wages the University offers to faculty are the wages needed to compete with other faculty roles in the market in similar disciplines and at similar levels.”
Fitzgerald also wrote the University aims to “attract and retain top candidates,” and this has an impact on the wages offered to faculty.
“When the University is seeking a faculty candidate for a particular position, we’re not only in competition with other top universities around the world, but also other companies and organizations that are vying for the same people,” Fitzgerald wrote. “These wage dynamics are not unique to U-M or higher education.”
The Daily spoke to students from LSA and the College of Engineering to see what they think should factor into faculty salary. Many agreed that student performance reviews of professor’s teaching should play a role.
Engineering sophomore Zaynab Elkolaly, Central Student Government representative, said that among the many factors that go into deciding a faculty’s salary, student feedback should be a large component of the decision.
“I know that time spent at the institution is a big factor, and I would say that is reasonable, as well as the degree to which they instruct, whether they’re introductory or specialized, along those lines,” Elkolaly said. “I think it should be based largely on student feedback, are they known to be helpful and good professors?”
Fields also said she thinks student feedback is very important.
“(The professor) makes the class, and it’s always nice to have a helpful professor, because you can know a subject really well but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your explanations are going to be better than someone who doesn’t have a Ph.D. in that subject,” Fields said. “The passion and willingness to work with students, I think that’s really important.”