Post Academic

Grad Student Stereotypes and How They Affect Fair Pay

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionGrad students at the University of Chicago are trying to organize because they are making wages under the poverty line and are not making as much as their peers in similar positions.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Teachers have unions, so why not grad students?

Oh, the backlash that met this idea was gnarly, and it was in the article itself. Deputy Provost Cathy Cohen said of the low wages, “We’re talking about students who will soon no longer be in this situation. We should be very careful with the imagery we’re using …. That’s not to say that they are not technically making wages below the poverty line, but just to say that a lot of people would jump for the opportunities they have.”

True, people who are smart enough to make it through grad school are smart enough and likely have the social support and networks to find another job. They do not have it as bad as those who have been in poverty all their lives.

But what does she mean by “students who will soon no longer be in this situation?” Has she seen the academic job market? Many of these students are going to be in this situation for a long time. And she can’t deny that the University of Chicago is benefiting from cheap grad-student labor.

The underlying assumption here is relates to the assumptions about professors and grad student “coffee jockeys”—that they are whiners who feel entitled, and it seems as if the provost is capitalizing on that.

More after the jump! First prize of the “Deutsche Barista Chanpionship 2009.” Image by Augenohrenmund, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.


Rage Against the Professor

Posted in The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on April 14, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe report on professor salaries made it to the Huffington Post, and this information generated some wild speculation on what professors make and what it is they actually do. Some of the comments reflected a streak of anger toward professors in general and could be summed up as “quit yer bitching.” The comments swiftly turned into a debate over whether or not professors were valuable, period:

“I had drunks for professors, BORING professors who read out of the book, MEAN professors, you name it. And they all had tenure.”*

“These professors have a bloated sense of entitlement. At least they got an average increase!”

“Professors are no doubt due a decent salary – but the fact that they get the salary they do while being GROSSLY under worked is driving the cost through the roof.”

“Educators love to site the “prep time” and all the “work” that happens outside the actual teaching in a classroom. Perhaps these people that thrive on education should spend some time educating themselves about the real world.”

More after the jump! Image from Wikimedia Commons, US Department of Agriculture, public domain.

More context on salaries: Furloughs and why it’s probably even worse than the numbers suggest

I wanted to add some anecdotal experience to expand on the raw data of the report, backed with some completely unscientific conjectures, to explain how the situation may even be worse than described in the articles.  Since I’m a UC type, the first thing I thought of when I saw the headlines is whether or not the data takes into account the impact furloughs have had on take-home pay.  The survey does not, so the situation is even bleaker for many state university employees.  From the AAUP report, on furloughs:

We know, for example, that faculty members and other employees of colleges and universities in many states have been forced to take unpaid furloughs during 2009 and 2010. For the most part, however, the reductions in pay resulting from these furloughs are not reflected in our data—although we cannot say for certain how much of a distortion this represents. Many institutions report data for this and similar surveys on the basis of salary levels rather than payroll disbursements.

As a result, I imagine it’s safe to say that economic status of academic instructors is even worse than the objective lowest-pay-increase-in-50-years news that can be statistically proven.  Here are some of the unquantifiable effects of the furloughs on faculty, tenured, tenure-track, or not.  And that’s not mentioning the students who are really taking the brunt of the furloughs, who are receiving less opportunities to learn even as their tuitions and fees are skyrocketing.

1. Economic and personal costs: What’s not as widely reported is the individual toll the furlough can take not just on pocketbooks, but also psyches.  At the economic level, there are a lot of absurd situations that have extracted a lot of unpaid labor not just from temporary faculty holding onto academic affiliations trying to get to the next academic job cycle, but also higher ups.  I’ve heard of cases where faculty are promoted and get raises, only to have their salaries bumped down to what they were making earlier or even less, because of the furlough.  In effect, many people end up having to take on more responsibilities to make up for the loss in pay (though that might not be the primary reason to do so), working more for the same amount of money, in practical terms.

But I imagine this scenario actually shows up as a pay increase on the AAUP survey because they only look at payscales and don’t throw furloughs into their calculations.  So it’s a good bet that the UC and Cal State contributions to the survey are very distorted, showing theoretical raises when the reality is that faculty are seeing less cold, hard cash.  (And to think, there’s probably someone working in some budgeting office earning a salary to do all the double accounting!)

I discuss the further impacts of the furloughs, below the fold…


Academic job salaries: “Worst Salary Year” meets “Worst. Job Market. Ever.”

Posted in The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on April 12, 2010
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Caroline covered the big news regarding the latest data on academic job salaries released by the AAUP directly below, and I’m following up her post by providing some more context.  The annual salary survey is not only being covered in education-oriented publications like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, but also in the New York Times. Great–what we really need the “worst salary year” to complement the “Worst. Job Market. Ever.” (at least in English and Comp Lit), which we covered a few weeks ago on the blog.

The key take-away point from the high-altitude perspective of the survey is that the average pay increases across different disciplines and different ranks were outpaced by the rate of inflation.  As the Chronicle article sums it up:

In 2009-10, the average salary of a full-time faculty member rose only 1.2 percent. That’s the lowest year-to-year increase recorded by the association in the 50-year history of its salary survey.

To make matters worse, an inflation rate of 2.7 percent meant that many professors actually had less buying power than the year before. In fact, two-thirds of the 1,141 institutions surveyed over two years gave their faculty members either a pay cut, no raise, or an increase of less than 2 percent, on average.

If you take a brief look at the AAUP summary, what’s most shocking is the breakdown of percentage increase of salaries across different types of institutions: you’ll notice that about 20% of faculty received a raise of 0-.99% and that 30% or so had their salary decreased.  So basically around HALF the faculty around the country had a raise of less than 1% or took a pay cut, which means that 1/3 of faculty who received raises of 2% or more really pulled up the average.  Below are links to the AAUP survey itself, and to some of the news articles covering it:

2009-10 Report on the Economic Status of the Profession [American Association of University Professors]

“Professors’ Pay Rises 1.2%, Lowest Increases in 50 Years” [Chronicle of Higher Education]; the Chronicle also offers an easily searchable database for salary comparisons from the survey results that can be broken down by school, state, and institution type.

“Study Find 1.2 Percent Increase in Faculty Pay, the Smallest in 50 Years” [NY Times]

We also compiled some links to salary information, from salary search databases and self-reported job offers on the Academic Job Wiki:

University Salaries Revealed. Kind Of (April 1, 2010)

Show me the money!: More university salaries revealed (April 1, 2010)

The Latest Academic Salary Info: It’s All About Context

Posted in The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on April 12, 2010
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Curious about salaries for academics? The American Association of University Professors just released some fascinating data, including average faculty salaries by rank and sector.

For salaries at doctoral universities, professors make an average of $125, 300, and associates make an average of $83,511. Of course, there’s going to be a big difference between professors at public and private schools ($80,463 for associates at publics versus $96,472 for associates at private schools, for example), and humanities professors will be paid far lower than the average.

The context is everything. Your pay will depend on the state, and it will depend on whether or not you are tenured faculty. The article also makes a point that this year’s salaries didn’t keep up with inflation and advises faculty members to “increase their knowledge of higher education finance so that they can better influence decision making.”

Translation: Don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to budget talks and administrative moves because it will all wind up affecting you–and your salary–in the end.

News: The Worst Salary Year [Inside Higher Ed]

Last week on Post Academic (3/28-4/3)

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on April 4, 2010
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Happy Easter!  If it’s as nice outside where you are as it is here in So Cal, you and your Peeps probably aren’t at your computer to read this.  But whether you’re brand new to the blog or haven’t been back in a while, here are some posts that might have been lost in the shuffle or cycled off the front page.

* We really explored the money side of academia and post-academia this past week.  Caroline warns about accruing too much in the way of student loans while you’re in grad school.  See if you can afford ’em by figuring out how much you’d make as a professor (or not) by checking out the salary comparison sites we’ve compiled here and here.

* And if you can’t afford the loans, Caroline suggests, with tongue-kinda-planted-in-cheek, that you might try out for The Apprentice.

* Arnold obsesses over what might be the vestiges of his career as an academic, psychoanalyzing his CV and mourning his account–which, by the way, still lives!

“Pink Marshmallow Peeps” by Jon Sullivan from Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Show me the money: More university salaries revealed!

Posted in The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on April 1, 2010
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Caroline’s posts on are invaluable for getting a sense of what people are making, especially outside of academia.  To pick up on her last post, here are a few links that show what professors of different ranks from different fields in various parts of the country make.  Many of the sites have easy search functions that can help you isolate the data you want.  It’s good for comparison shopping, whether you are looking to try and leverage a raise for your next merit review or figure out the opportunity cost of going post-academic or just nosy.

The links to the nitty-gritty are below the jump:


University Salaries Revealed! Kind Of

Yesterday, I recommended as a way to get the scoop on a company. Then I wondered if I could get any information about universities from the site.

For kicks, I looked up “assistant professor,” and the sheer range of salaries that appeared was astonishing. You can look up any school, but I plucked out a few salary ranges:

Assistant Professor at Texas A&M: $58K-113K
Assistant Professor at the University of Florida: $52K-$95K
Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago: $55K-$87K

Right below the salaries for the Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago position, I noticed listings for the University of Chicago, and profs at private schools appear to make more, between $58K and $186K. Yet their base rate isn’t all that different from the base rate at public universities.

The base rate is probably the most realistic expectation if you are hoping to land a job as a humanities prof. However, knowing how high a university is willing to go can give you more bargaining power if you get a job offer, especially if you find out how much similar universities are willing to pay.

If you are considering grad school but think you might have to go into debt, checking can help you figure out how long it will take for you to pay off your loans with a certain salary. If you don’t think you can pay off your loans at between $50 to $60K a year, you might want to shift gears or go to a less expensive school.


Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on March 31, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionA major disadvantage of moving from academia to the hamster world is that you probably don’t know how much you deserve to be paid. However, many companies ask you to provide your rate in a cover letter, or they’ll ask you in an interview.

What do you say? Grad students are notoriously low-paid, and if you throw out what you actually made last year, the company will lowball you or laugh in your face because you seem desperate.

Here’s where comes in. If you register for an account, you can research companies and find out what people are making in certain positions. This also includes hourly employees if you are considering contract work. Employees post their salaries and comments on the company anonymously. While the site is limited toward larger companies, you can still get a better idea of what you can expect to earn when you change jobs.

The comments section is also eye-opening, but as you know all too well with Rate My Professors, most people go to the site only when they’re royally pissed off. A low rating on might not mean much, but you should still read the comments to look for trends relating to the company as a whole. For example, if most of the comments mention major overtime or underwhelming health insurance, you might want to reconsider sending your resume.

Image of Disney’s Hollywood Hotel Café by Bvld11 under a Creative Commons license, from Wikimedia Commons.