I make way too much money

Via here, it seems David Levy thinks I’m overpaid:

With the 1970s advent of collective bargaining in higher education, this began to change. The result has been more equitable circumstances for college faculty, who deserve salaries comparable to those of other educated professionals. Happily, senior faculty at most state universities and colleges now earn $80,000 to $150,000, roughly in line with the average incomes of others with advanced degrees.

Not changed, however, are the accommodations designed to compensate for low pay in earlier times. Though faculty salaries now mirror those of most upper-middle-class Americans working 40 hours for 50 weeks, they continue to pay for teaching time of nine to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks, making possible a month-long winter break, a week off in the spring and a summer vacation from mid-May until September.

Unfortunately, the salaries and the workloads applied to the highest echelons of faculty have been grafted onto colleges whose primary mission is teaching, not research. These include many state colleges, virtually all community colleges and hundreds of private institutions. For example, Maryland’s Montgomery College (an excellent two-year community college) reports its average full professor’s salary as $88,000, based on a workload of 15 hours of teaching for 30 weeks. Faculty members are also expected to keep office hours for three hours a week.

Critics may argue that teaching faculty members require long hours for preparation, grading and advising. Therefore they would have us believe that despite teaching only 12 to 15 hours a week, their workloads do approximate those of other upper-middle-class professionals. While time outside of class can vary substantially by discipline and by the academic cycle (for instance, more papers and tests to grade at the end of a semester), the notion that faculty in teaching institutions work a 40-hour week is a myth.

So, in how many ways is he lying and/or misleading?

First, notice that he is giving the salary for the highest paid professors at the university–‘senior faculty’ or full professors. Let’s explore this a bit:

But the report found a widening pay gap between public universities, where full professors averaged $118,054 and assistant professors $69,777, and private institutions, where full professors’ average salary was $157,282 and assistant professors’ $86,189.

Hmm, the pay for full professors is quite a bit more than assistant professors, although assistant professors still do pretty well. But wait (bold added):

The most recent data available from the US Department of Education, collected in fall 2009, indicate that the number of contingent appointments among all instructional staff continued to grow between 2007 and 2009. Figure 1 depicts the trend over more than three decades. The proportion of tenured and tenuretrack faculty members shrank dramatically between 1975 and 2009, from more than 45 percent to less than 25 percent. In all, graduate student employees and faculty members serving in contingent appointments now make up more than 75 percent of the total instructional staff. The most rapid growth has been among part-time faculty members, whose numbers swelled by more than 280 percent between 1975 and 2009.

So, he’s using the pay of the highest paid full-time faculty as the typical pay of people teaching at a university. Part-time instructors get paid a lot less and usually get no benefits–they make up 40% of university faculty now. They are not overpaid.

Second, let’s compare faculty pay to university president pay: at public institutions the presidents’ salary went up by 11.5% from 2007-8 to 2010-11, while full-time faculty salary increased by 5.4%; at private institutions it was 14.4 against 5.7%. I can’t wait for his column about president pay. And spending on administration has gone up faster than spending on instruction:

A comprehensive study published by the Delta Cost Project in 2010 reported that between 1998 and 2008, America’s private colleges increased spending on instruction by 22 percent while increasing spending on administration and staff support by 36 percent.

Third, he assumes that professors work much less than 40 hours per week with no proof whatsoever. Let’s look at a random community college (it was at the top of a Google search for community college workload):

A minimum of 30 hours will be scheduled on-campus or at other instructional sites. These hours can be used for student contact time, including teaching, course prep, course development, lab maintenance and other professional development, and institutional and community service activities. Time beyond the scheduled 30 hours may be on-campus, off-campus, or a combination of the two as negotiated with the supervisor.
These remaining hours are not necessarily scheduled hours, as they are the additional hours needed for course prep, course development and to attend to other program business and may vary from week to week. Each faculty member, during negotiations with their supervisor, will identify personal and professional development and institutional and community service components. However, it is assumed that additional time will be such that the instructor is working at least the equivalent of a 40-hour week as jointly determined by both faculty and supervisor. On occasion, faculty members will be expected to spend non-scheduled time on the campus for special activities.

I have known quite a few people who work at community colleges and this is fairly typical–the amount of work is rigorously figured out and it is 40 hours a week or more. In terms of work outside of class, most people I know think that an average of 2 hours outside of class for each hour teaching is fairly typical–this is anecdotal, but still much better than his statistic that seems to be completely made up.

There is a huge problem with tuition, the price of college is going up too fast and that’s unsustainable. Something does need to be done, but the pay of professors/instructors is not the main reason tuition has gone up so fast.

Personally, I like teaching at a university and I’m not complaining about my workload or pay (I’m a full-time, non-tenured instructor, so my pay is a bit less than those full professors). I will complain when some idiot lies about my pay to make a point.

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