UT is considered a top-tier public university by rankings published by sources such as Business Insider and U.S. News & World Report, but it does not pay its faculty as much as its highly-ranked peers.
Faculty salaries at UT are not as competitive as those of peer institutions, according to Brian Evans, engineering professor and chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets. The average salary of a UT professor in 2013-2014 was $137,871, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. That was $12,000 less than average faculty salaries at that time at schools in the American Association of Universities, an organization of leading private and public universities. It was also about $22,000 less than average faculty salaries at the top 50 universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report, which becomes more glaring as UT attempts to bolster its national stature from 52nd place.
“Salary is incredibly important, and we do need to be competitive against similarly-ranked universities in the U.S,” Evans said. “And right now, we are a little bit lower than several of our peer institutions.”
Decreased state funding has led the university to increase tuition to, in part, fund faculty salaries. The proposed 3 percent tuition increase at UT-Austin would go toward scholarships, education support, faculty and staff salaries, and facilities.
“We don’t get to make any decisions about how much money we get from the state,” said Joey Williams, interim communications director for the provost’s office. “Tuition is one the things we do have a say in, and that’s one way that way we can help increase revenue.”
Evans said around 80 faculty positions in the College of Liberal Arts will be eliminated due to budget cuts. Wayne Rebhorn, an English professor who is a member of the budget committee for the department, said full professors in his department are generally underpaid because there’s not many opportunities for salary increases once faculty members are promoted to full professors.
Faculty only get merit, not cost-of-living, increases to their salary, Rebhorn said.
“There’s not a higher rank [than full professor],” Rebhorn said. “There’s [generally] no way for the college or the university to give you a bump up.”
In regards to faculty compensation, Williams said the University compares itself to peer schools such as UC-Berkeley, UCLA, University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan. Funding for faculty salaries comes from a variety of sources such as endowments, state funding and tuition.
Evans said not increasing tuition could negatively affect the academic experience of the University by making it harder to recruit competitive faculty members.
“There will be a reduction in the number of faculty and staff over time, which will mean larger class sizes, less availability for advising by faculty and staff, less support in general for student organizations for faculty and staff advisors,” Evans said. “We’ve recruited from UCLA recently and also UC-San Diego, and they turned us down, and salary was a primary concern.”
Rachel Osterloh, president of Senate of College Councils and a member of the Tuition Advisory Policy Committee, said students deserve to take classes with star professors — even at the expense of tuition increases.
“Students should take classes with professors who have won numerous teaching awards and professors who are experts in their field,” said Osterloh, a government and philosophy senior. “By paying faculty a little bit more, we’re able to keep them at UT so [students] can have that experience.”