Popular Science Monthly/Volume 67/September 1905/State University Salaries

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FROM time to time the question of the relatively low pay of members of the teaching profession is brought to the foreground in the public press. The statements made are as a rule only general in character, or if any actual figures are given for a large group of teachers they usually relate to those in the public schools. It has happened, however, that during the last half year certain comments have been made on the remuneration of college and university professors. Sir William Ramsay, the eminent English chemist, remarked during a recent visit to this country on the absence here of any great academic prizes, positions of high standing and large salary together with leisure for carrying on research. An article in the New York Evening Post of recent date has also been widely quoted. This purports to give a brief account of the salaries paid at Harvard. From it one learns that, roughly speaking, the average salary of a professor there is $4,000, of an associate professor $3,000, of an assistant professor $2,000, of an instructor $1,000, while an assistant must content himself with from $250 to $400. The Post intimates that the situation at Harvard is better than at any other American university. Whatever may be the real state of affairs, these figures may certainly be looked upon as being among the highest. Indeed, to anticipate one of the chief items in the statistical part of this paper, it may be said that the average salary of the professors in the state universities of the middle west is $2,315. This, whether it be too low or not, is certainly lower than $4,000.

The question at Harvard is receiving its full share of attention, for it has been noted in a recent number of Science that $1,800,000 of a fund of $2,500,000 has been raised to be devoted 'to increase the present totally inadequate amount available for the salaries of the teaching staff.' The Carnegie pension fund is another item of interest in the matter. In The Popular Science Monthly of December, 1904, an article under the title 'Status of the American College Professor' has much to say of the financial side, and in the Atlantic Monthly for May of this year an anonymous writer discusses in detail the necessary expenses of a college professor. These exceedingly pithy articles will be found to have an added interest in the light of the statistics brought out in this paper.

But if this question of university salaries is to be discussed at all
PSM V67 D430 Some usa universities annual income chart 1893 to 1905.png

Plate I. Incomes year by year from 1893-4 to 1904-5.

intelligently, the starting point must be comprehensive statistics showing exactly what the situation is. To get such statistics is not an easy task. Though most institutions of learning have published reports giving details of their business management, these reports are not always easy to find, and, when found, certain kinds of information are not always easy to obtain from their pages. In taking up the matter, the authors saw that with the time at their disposal only a limited number of institutions could be studied. In selecting this small number, it seemed desirable to take a representative group of some well denned type so that the figures would have wider application. In choosing the type the state university of the Middle West was selected, for the reason that in this large section of the country it is the most important type, not in numbers, for in this particular the small denominational college outranks it thirty to one, but in wealth, number of students and rapid rate of growth.

The actual group of which a discussion is to be found in the following pages consists of the universities of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Effort was also made to secure similar data from the universities of Iowa and Michigan, but without success.

These eight universities may certainly be looked upon as representative. They have shared in the development of the region in which they lie. The equipment, the attendance and the number of instructors have increased to a remarkable extent, and, finally, there is in them an almost entire absence of traditions of the past. In such institutions, if anywhere, one would expect to find the normal salary and the normal rate of change of salary. That is, the increase in the incomes of these schools, as well as other conditions of a secondary influence, has been such that a greater or less increase in the salaries paid has been largely a matter of policy, to be followed or not as their various boards of trustees have seen fit; and it is therefore reasonable to suppose that whatever state of affairs in regard to salaries exists in these institutions more nearly represents the rating of the positions on the part of the people than can be found in other universities and colleges.

In the following pages then will be found an account of the salaries paid at these eight institutions. No discussion of the conditions prevailing at the several schools will in any sense be attempted. The data as obtained from the published, or soon to be published, reports are given and the important items are pointed out by references in the text. Whatever local conditions may exist for explaining this or that peculiarity are beyond the scope of the paper, which aims solely at a presentation of the facts in this group of representative institutions, the authors believing that such a presentation should be preliminary to any change that may come.
PSM V67 D432 Salary averages of usa university professors 1893 to 1905.png

A graphical scheme has been chosen as this presents at a glance the general situation from year to year. A large amount of data was, however, collected that will not admit of simple graphical treatment; for instance, the maximum and minimum salaries, the number of men of a given rank from year to year, the number receiving a given salary, etc. To have presented all this would have multiplied unduly the number of plates, and therefore no such presentation will be attempted.

Most of these figures, as was mentioned above, were obtained from the published reports of the institutions. Those for the last two years, however, were kindly furnished by the executive departments of the universities.[1] In addition, all the data for each university were referred back for correction, if necessary, and therefore may be looked upon as official. Only data relating to the salaries of professors, associate professors and assistant professors are given, for the reason that to have included the large number of instructors, assistants, etc., would have demanded too much time.

This shows the total income of each university during the past twelve years, that for the current year being, of course, estimated. At present Minnesota heads the list with an income of approximately $800,000. Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas follow in the order named, with Indiana and Illlinois not given.

In connection with this it ought to be said that both Kansas and Indiana support two institutions of higher learning; each state having in addition to the university an agricultural and mechanical college. In the other states these subjects are not given in separate schools, but make a part of the university curriculum. In this paper only those institutions officially designated as state universities are considered. This of course will greatly affect the relative income, but should in no sense affect the salaries.

This shows the average salary from year to year paid at each of the universities to men holding the rank of professor. The heavy line on this plate marked 'average' gives the average salary of professors in the eight institutions. It was obtained by treating the eight universities as one and dividing the total amount paid each year to professors by the number of men of this rank in the eight schools.

Two notes of explanation are required in regard to this plate: (1) Many men in the professional schools of law and medicine hold the rank of professor, but inasmuch as they give only a small part of their time to teaching they receive relatively low salaries. Obviously they represent professions other than that of teacher, and all such are accordingly omitted. (2) In some places the deans of the several colleges in the university receive extra compensation owing to the executive work required of them. They have, however, been included in the averages because their work is entirely within the university and educational in character. This paper aims solely at a discussion of the pecuniary side of the positions in these state universities, aside from that of president, and therefore it seemed fitting to rate the deans with the professors, rather than to make a separate list.

The noticeable features in the average salary curve are the high points at the years 1896-7 and 1897-8, the sudden drop at 1898-9 and the steady upward trend from that time to the present. An inspection of the tabulated data from which the curves were compiled shows that during the year 1895-6 there were in the eight universities 187 professors at an average salary of $2,139. In 1896-7 the number increased to 196, but increases in salary raised the average to $2,193. During the next year, 1897-8, the number rose to 202, while the average salary reached $2,202. In the next year, 1898-9, however, something seemed to happen. There appears to be evidence that in some institutions, at any rate, salaries were actually cut. The number of professors reached 224. The average salary fell in four universities, remained constant at a very low mark in one and rose in three. This was the low water mark, for from that lean year to the present there has been a steady increase, the curve being almost a straight line. Great differences are, however, to be noted during this period in the several universities. In four of them, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri, the rate of increase in the average salary is more rapid than that of the general average for the eight. In two of them, Indiana and Minnesota, there is an increase, but at a less rapid rate than the average for all. One of them, Nebraska, increased rapidly during the first three years and then suddenly declined. One of them, Ohio, shows a decline since 1899-1900. Advance reports of the Ohio salary list for 1905-6 show an upward trend, the averages for that year being as follows: professors, $2,200; associate professors, $1,580; and assistant professors, $1,347. In 1898-9 the average salary was $2,106. At present, 1904-5, it is $2,315.

This period of seven years, beginning with 1898-9 and ending with the present academic year, is peculiarly suited to a study of the salary question. During this period, times in general have been good and the universities themselves have prospered, as an inspection of Plate I. will show. The time embraced is sufficiently long to warrant general conclusions, and it is therefore reasonable to suppose that whatever changes may have taken place may be looked upon as more nearly normal than in the preceding period.

It is gratifying to note that the average salary has increased in a substantial manner, it being now practically ten per cent, more than in 1898-9. The increased cost of living, however, during this time should be taken into consideration before a final conclusion is reached in regard to the real state of affairs.

Before leaving the discussion of this the most important of the plates, the reader should be warned against ascribing too great significance to the ordinary ups and downs of the curves. In the first place, the arithmetical mean leaves much to be desired as a single expression for giving an idea of a set of numbers that differ much among themselves. Secondly a rather slight change in number and salaries of the professorial staff of an institution will in some cases change the average out of proportion to the actual change. The scheme of giving the averages is, however, the best that can be used, and when the trend of the curves for a period of years is taken into consideration, it is believed that they very fairly represent the situation.

Naturally an inspection of the complete data from which the curves were plotted reveals many interesting and important points which the curves themselves fail to show. For instance, one interesting feature that presents itself is that in the majority of the institutions there appears to be a 'normal' salary for men of full professorial rank; that is, a sum which all professors receive unless there be a special reason for their getting more or less. This is inferred from the following figures taken from the data for 1904-5, but typical of the whole period: In Kansas 57 per cent, of the professors are receiving $2,200 each; in Nebraska 47 per cent, receive $2,100; in Minnesota 48 per cent, receive $2,400; Indiana pays 53 per cent. $2,500; and in Ohio 40 per cent, get $2,250. (In 1905-6, 36 per cent, will receive $2,500.) In Wisconsin 33 per cent, receive $2,500 and 20 per cent. $2,000. Wisconsin has apparently two 'normal' salaries, a condition not presented by any of the others. In the cases of Missouri and Illinois no considerable proportion of the faculty receive the same salary. These so-called 'normal' salaries do not coincide with the average salary, they being sometimes higher and sometimes lower and differing in maximum by over $200 from the average.

In regard to high salaries, Wisconsin heads the list. In this institution, in 1904—5, ten deans and professors are receiving from $3,000 to $4,500. The lowest recorded salary, $1,000, is also on Wisconsin's list. Illinois and Missouri are the only other universities of the eight that pay a professor more than $3,000. All of them are paying some men $2,500 and in four of them this is the highest salary paid. All but one, Indiana, pay some of their professors less than $2,000. It should be borne in mind that these figures refer to salaries of men of full professorial rank and do not include associate and assistant professors.

Taking the period beginning with 1898-9 and closing with the present academic year, 1904—5, it is seen from the complete data that
PSM V67 D436 Salary averages of usa associate professors 1893 to 1905.png

in these eight universities the number of professors receiving $2,500 or more has increased from 40 out of a total of 224, or about 18 per cent., to 89 out of a total of 285, or 31 per cent. On the other hand, the number receiving less than $2,000 has decreased from 21 per cent, in 1898-9 to less than 12 per cent, at present.

Among the several universities there are very great differences.

At present Wisconsin pays 60 per cent, of her professors $2,500 or more; Indiana, 53 per cent.; Missouri, 44 per cent.; Illinois, 43 per cent.; Nebraska, 16 per cent.; Kansas, 10 per cent.; and Ohio 5 per cent. In 1905-6, Ohio will pay 36 per cent., $2,500. As to the number receiving less than $2,000, the percentage ranges from in Indiana to 31 in Ohio.

Here is shown in a manner similar to that for professors the averages for associate professors.

This title does not exist in the University of Missouri, and at Wisconsin there have been periods—indicated by the omitted parts of the curve—when no one held it. The University of Minnesota, in sending data, classed associate professors and professors together.

The interesting feature brought out by an inspection of the data is the relatively small number of men holding this title. It has, however, increased with fair uniformity from 18 in 1893-4 to 49 in 1904-5. Among the several institutions there are great differences, Ohio and Kansas being in the lead. The figures for 1903-4 represent very well the relative numbers during the last five or six years and are accordingly given. In that year Wisconsin had 1; Minnesota, 0; Nebraska, 6; Illinois, 3; Indiana, 9; Missouri, 0; Kansas, 14; and Ohio, 19 associate professors.

In a general way the average salary curve for men of this title follows the trend of the curve for professors. At present it is $1,600.

This gives the averages for assistant professors. These have increased steadily in number from 61 in 1893-4 to 159 in 1904—5. The general average curve shows the same trend as the preceding ones, the average salary being now $1,374.

Previous to 1901 the title of assistant professor did not exist in the University of Nebraska, the lowest professorial grade being adjunct professor. Since 1901, however, assistant professors have been added, thus making four grades with the title of professor.

Inasmuch, however, as the adjunct professors represented the third grade of professorial rank which in position at least corresponds to assistant professor in the other institution, they were rated as such on Plate IV. until 1900-1, the advent of the assistant professor.

The Nebraska curve then is really that of the adjunct professors till 1900-01, after which it refers to the assistant professors.

Having now obtained the exact data in regard to salaries, the question may arise as to whether the professorial position does not carry
PSM V67 D438 Salary averages of usa associate professors 1893 to 1905.png

with it, in many cases at least, certain perquisites in the way of rooms, board, etc., in the university buildings; and if in an indirect way opportunities are not offered for large fees for expert consultation work, etc., thus very materially raising the real income.

In regard to the first of these items relating to house and board, it may be said to be entirely negligible. In some of these eight institutions the president receives his house in addition to his salary, but no professor is thus favored. A discussion of the second item, sources of income attracted by the position, is impossible because of lack of data. Some few professors do receive at times large fees for expert work. Others, to eke out a meager salary, do a certain amount of routine work. Still others receive something in the way of royalties on their books. An estimate of the general average addition to the income through these sources would, however, be nothing but a guess and will therefore not be attempted. It should be said, though, in regard to all such work, that it is done in addition to the regular duties and is to be looked upon as that much extra labor accomplished ofttimes by taking time from much needed vacation periods.

Looking back over the above figures, it is seen that the average pecuniary attraction in the field of state university work is $2,315 per year plus an indefinite amount that may be made by extra work. It is further seen that this sum is increasing, but at such a slow rate as to leave it an open question as to whether the increase is keeping pace with the increased cost of living. In comparison with the salaries or incomes of men of like training, age and experience in other professional lines such as law, medicine, engineering, etc., it is small, being perhaps not more than one third or one fourth as much. Some of this great difference might be accounted for by the fact that the university man enjoys longer vacations; but, assuming that no work at all is done during the time the university is not in session, and that the vacation time includes one fourth of the year, the salary of the professor would still be small in comparison with that of other professional men. In making these comparisons, it will possibly be objected by some that the average of the whole number of professors is compared with the incomes of the more successful men in other lines. To this it may be said that the salaries of all professors are not so compared. These eight universities are all large and rich institutions. Were one to collect statistics of the 150 to 200 small colleges in this region where the salaries are far lower than in the state universities, the general average professorial salary would undoubtedly drop to less than $1,800. It must be borne in mind then that it is entirely fair to compare the salary of the state university man with that of the more successful men in other lines.

In very intimate relation with the income to be expected is the cost of preparation. It is doubtful if in any other line so much is spent in preparing for the work. After completing the four years undergraduate course the aspirant for professorial honors must spend at least two or three years in graduate work in some large university. On completing this he will be fortunate if he obtains even an assistant professorship. More usually he becomes an assistant or instructor at $600 to $700 a year.

The manner of living required in any position is also closely related to income received. Here, too, the professor has nothing to his advantage, for he is compelled to keep up appearances. He must dress well, and his house must be in a good neighborhood. In order to meet other men in his line he must attend the meetings of technical societies, where these men come together. Finally he is supposed to be a patron of the arts and sciences and the owner of a fine library, all of which costs money.

The sentimental side of the question, the compensations coming from love of the work, seeking for truth, pursuit of ideals, in short, the things that are worth more than money, the authors will not discuss, feeling that it would be without the scope of the paper. They do not wish to be understood, however, as taking so sordid a view as to place money compensation above everything else. Still, the subject can not be left without this reflection: other professions also have their ideals. Because the lawyer or surgeon or engineer receives more salary, it scarcely follows that he has no ideals, does not love his work and takes no thought of service to his fellow men. Can it be shown that these are not worth as much as the ideals of the teacher? If it can not, it follows that the teacher pays too high a price for the privilege of following his chosen work.

Finally, one other question will be raised. Does not the low salary exert an influence on the kind of men who go into the profession of university teaching? It is sometimes flatly stated that the best men do not enter the profession because of this fact. This point, also, the authors, who are just entering the professorial ranks themselves, obviously do not want to discuss, hoping that in presenting the facts of the situation they have contributed their share and made the way easier for wiser minds to follow.

  1. The authors wish in this place to thank the presidents of these eight universities for their ready aid, which made possible the collection of the data for the more recent years. They feel especially indebted to Dr. W. O. Thompson, of Ohio, through whose kind assistance the interest of the others was enlisted.