Faculty salary pecking order


Pay: An annual survey shows that college professors' earnings roughly parallel the reputation of the institutions they serve.

April 25, 2004|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

HOKE SMITH, the late president of Towson University, upset the honchos of the University System of Maryland a few years ago when he complained, ever so publicly, about the pitifully poor state funding of his school.

Smith, who was later nudged into retirement, was considered a traitor, especially when he suggested Towson might leave the system. That was heresy. System presidents are supposed to speak as one, to approach the governor and General Assembly as one -- as though there is no pecking order among Maryland's colleges and universities.

Then, every year at about this time, comes the report from the American Association of University Professors on the economic status of the profession. The report shows that Smith was correct. There is a pecking order, and it's plainly visible if you follow faculty salaries.

This year, Towson professors earn about $31,000 less, on average, than their peers at the University of Maryland, College Park, according to the AAUP study. The pay gap is about the same, or slightly wider, between the four state universities (Bowie, Coppin, Frostburg and Salisbury) and the flagship campus at College Park.

The salary pecking order roughly parallels the institutions' reputational pecking order. The Johns Hopkins University, where full professors receive $142,500 in average compensation, is at the top, followed by the professional schools at the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Baltimore; the U.S. Naval Academy; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Morgan State University.

Morgan has a distinction in the AAUP survey. It's one of the few Maryland colleges and universities that have closed the historic salary gap between male and female professors. In fact, women in the top two professorial ranks at Morgan this year (full and associate professor) are earning $4,000 to $5,000 more than men.

Money, of course, isn't everything, and College Park officials are quick to point out that, unlike Towson, UMCP is a "Category 1" institution committed to doctoral education and research. Professors at schools such as College Park, the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are always better paid. Those at master's institutions such as Towson earn less.

And how do profs at College Park stack up against professors at the Virginia and North Carolina flagships? Very well. They earn a little more than peers in Chapel Hill and a little less than those at UVA, a school with which Maryland has become increasingly competitive.

There's one other feature of the AAUP survey that's of prime importance to university and college presidents. The survey rates each school's faculty salaries against those at other institutions in the same category.

A row of "1's" across the professorial ranks from full professor to instructor is a good sign. That's what you get at the Naval Academy, which is financed entirely by the federal government.

But "3's" and "4's" mean the school isn't keeping up with its peers. UMBC and financially struggling Hood College in Frederick are rated that way in this year's survey.

Words to accentuate for high school freshmen

Two years ago the American Heritage College Dictionary generated enormous interest when it published a list of 100 words every high school graduate should know to be a success in college or the workplace. The words range from abjure (to renounce under oath) to ziggurat (a temple tower of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians).

Now American Heritage is out with 100 words every high school freshman should know. Presented in an 83-page paperback, these words range from accentuate (to give prominence) to zoology (the branch of biology that deals with animals).

Included are xylem (a plant tissue that carries water and dissolved minerals up from the roots through the stem to the leaves); gargoyle (a waterspout or ornamental figure in the form of a grotesque animal or person); and light-year (the distance light travels in one year, about 5.88 trillion miles).

Art college sponsors summer study abroad

The Maryland Institute College of Art is sponsoring summer study in seven countries this year. Here's my choice from the MICA catalog:

"Photography in the City of Light."

"Participants travel to this extraordinary city of light for an intensive program that focuses on creativity and self-expression through photography. Paris, June 26-July 17."

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