IU professors top Purdue’s in pay after freeze ends

Indiana University’s men’s basketball players weren’t the only Hoosiers that had Purdue University’s number this year. So, too, did IU’s full professors, according to results of an annual faculty salary survey released Monday.

After the recession forced a freeze in its professors' pay, IU’s flagship Bloomington campus boosted its faculty salaries roughly 6 percent this year, which vaulted its top professors’ pay past Purdue’s professors after the West Lafayette campus had moved ahead in compensation the previous year.

Full professors at IU-Bloomington are pulling down average salaries of $128,400, nearly 3 percent higher than Purdue’s full professor average of $125,100.

The highest-paid full professors in the state are in South Bend, at the University of Notre Dame. The state’s only private research campus pays its top academics $150,200 per year on average.

Growth in professor pay at universities across Indiana and the nation has moderated since the 2008 financial meltdown and the slow economic recovery that has followed. But faculty salaries have still grown faster than inflation and average wages since 2000—during a time tuition costs have skyrocketed.

That has put college pay in the spotlight. Even U.S. Vice President Joe Biden noted in January that “salaries for college professors have escalated significantly. They should be good, but they have escalated significantly.”

The American Association of University Professors, which released the faculty salary data Monday, sought to counter the notion that professor pay was linked to high tuition in its report that accompanied the data, culled from 1,251 colleges and universities nationwide.

“AAUP survey data demonstrate that, contrary to a persistent myth, full-time faculty salaries are not the cause of rising tuition prices over the last three decades,” stated authors Saranna Thornton and John Curtis. They noted that faculty salaries have not kept pace with inflation the past three years and for six of the eight years before that.

That trend has also proved true at such schools as Butler University, the University of Indianapolis, Ball State University and even IUPUI, the Indianapolis campus of IU and Purdue.

But at the state’s research hubs—IU-Bloomington, Purdue-West Lafayette and Notre Dame—professor pay has galloped ahead of inflation and average wage growth.

From 200 to 2012, IU-Bloomington raised professor pay—including for lower-ranking associate and assistant professors—by a range of 48 percent to 60 percent, according to the AAUP data.

At Purdue-West Lafayette, the pay increases since 2000 have ranged from 44 percent to 54 percent.

At Notre Dame, faculty pay has leaped 43 percent to 63 percent since 2000.

All three schools have been more aggressive in recruiting top-notch researchers—often trying to poach them from other universities by outbidding other schools. Such researchers often bring with them existing streams of grant funding and a team of student researchers to go with them.

"Indiana University is committed to its mission of being a leading public research university, and to do that the university must attract and retain the best and brightest faculty," IU spokesman Mark Land said Monday in an e-mail. "Even during challenging economic times such as those we have experienced over the past few years, the university's commitment to offering competitive salaries to its faculty has not wavered and will continue to be a priority in the future."

IU and Purdue have not received significant criticism for their faculty salaries specifically. But state legislators have vocally criticized the state’s top public institutions for rapidly increasing tuition over the past 20 years.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, has said that IU and Purdue—in their admirable quest to increase their national and global standings—have forgotten that they’re also supposed to be affordable for Indiana citizens. And he thinks they’re missing opportunities—created by new technologies—to dramatically lower their costs.

“So that means that they just intend to keep raising tuition at such an incredible rate? I think they’re going to do it on the backs of the citizens,” Kenley said in an interview last year. “If that’s their plan, then we have a fundamental disagreement about what their mission is."

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