Higher Ed Faculty Wages See Largest Drop In 50 Years

College professors and full time faculty staff experienced the largest salary drop in over 50 years this past school year.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

University Warns Professors Not To Discuss Abortions Or Contraception With Students

professor salaries

Due to high inflation rates, college professors and other full-time staff experienced the largest salary drop in 50 years. Although the 2021-2022 school year did provide a slight wage increase, it was not enough to combat the devaluation of the American dollar or rising costs. This spells bad news for universities that are struggling to fill staff positions and facing enrollment declines. As professor salaries drop lower, many are wondering how the state of education will be affected.

While The Biden Administration and other officials laugh at inflation rates, the American people are suffering. Although the current inflation rate is said to have increased to only 8.6%, most people are paying double or more for gas and groceries than what they paid under the previous administration. Some claim this is due to the long-term effects of the pandemic, while others blame bad political policies put in place over the course of the past year and a half. Regardless of why the economy is failing, plenty of workers are doing everything they can to make ends meet. The once competitive allure of professor salaries drew a diverse network of teachers to college campuses, but now, based on schools’ inability to parallel pay rates to inflation rates, some are wondering how higher education faculty will respond. 

Last year more than half of college faculty considered changing careers or retiring early. A nationwide focus on primary and secondary teachers has been sparked during the teacher shortage, but university staff have not gained as much attention even though their instruction helps combat the worker shortage, but new information regarding professor salaries may explain the changing interests in the profession. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) released their Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession regarding the 2021-2022 school year and the findings are grim. Although the annual pay increased about 2%, when adjusted for inflation it decreased by 5% for this time period. This is the largest single-year drop since 1972, when the AAUP was formed.

What’s more, as inflation continues to increase, many believe that this hit to professor salaries may continue well into the 2022-2023 school year. Unless lawmakers specifically address the impending financial crisis that many Americans and industries are facing, and specifically tackle issues regarding education and higher education, this downward trend cannot be remedied. This spells disaster in a career where many working professionals have other job skills. 

It is well-known that many college professors have experience in the fields they teach. Many seek education as a way to impart what they have learned through their efforts. The once-promising pay is now less incentivizing as professor salaries plummet and the potential to return to their original work is growing more promising. 

professor salaries

The benefits of returning to a fulfilling field, or retiring entirely are looking much more rewarding than a drop in professor salaries. If institutes of higher education wish to retain knowledgeable staff and draw in new thinkers, changes must be made and updates need to be considered. For now, the fall of 2022 presents many challenges for both college professors and the universities employing them.