A first-rate education is priceless, but maintaining some of the nation’s best and brightest faculty comes with a hefty cost. Last year the University set aside $245 million – almost 20 percent of its general fund expenditures – for professors’ salaries.
This figure probably doesn’t match the value that most students would place on their education, but it also doesn’t explain why, according to some faculty salaries, the University values certain departments more than others.
Last year, the salary for a professor of political science averaged $148,645.44 while the average history professor made only $118,484.77.
Associate Provost Philip Hanlon said these disparities aren’t because of the overall quality of individual departments, but are a reflection of the job market associated with various disciplines.
Like any other industry, Hanlon said, the laws of supply and demand largely determine the market for faculty. Citing Harvard University, Princeton University and Duke University as three of the University’s top competitors, Hanlon said the University is in constant competition to recruit and retain the country’s top professors.
“These elite private universities have resources and huge endowments that they can bring to bear,” he said.
For many disciplines, however, competition is not limited to the world of academia. In areas like business or economics, the University faces the additional challenge of matching salaries offered by the government or private sector. With the average professor earning $215,022.84 in the Ross School of Business and $189,124.60 in the Department of Economics, the price tag associated with this corporate competition is real.
Though market structure largely explains why professors in high demand earn more than others, salary differences within departments point to the quality of individual work.
Every school or college at the University receives a budget based on the tuition revenue it generates, but it is up to the dean of that school or college to decide which faculty members deserve more pay than others. Each dean uses a slightly different process, but pay increases are generally indicative of how well individual faculty member has performed.
Despite these differences, Hanlon said the University has been successful in retaining its faculty over the years.
“The excellence of our faculty, like the excellence of our students, is what makes us a great University,” he said.