USF’s quest to become one of the top research universities in the nation may come to a halt if it doesn’t step up its competition with schools such as Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley, institutions that are consistently ranked among the top research universities.
USF has kept pace with these schools in offering doctoral degrees and has been classified as a university with “Very High Research Activity,” according to the Carnegie Foundation, a research enterprise which classifies 4,321 colleges and universities. However, if USF wants to keep its classification, it needs to raise faculty salaries, Faculty Union President Roy Weatherford said.
“As a matter of fact, it is very important faculty be well compensated,” he said. “It is more important than the number of books in the Library, the size of the facilities and any other item on the budget.”
Weatherford said there is a visible correlation between the quality of the research done at an institution and the salaries that full-time faculty are paid. The best universities have the highest salaries and vice versa, he said.
A survey released by the American Association of University Professors showed faculty salaries declining nationwide.
The report stated “adjusted for inflation, average salaries for all full-time faculty declined by 0.3 percent in 2005-06, following a 0.5 percent decrease in 2004-05.” Put simply, with inflation factored in, professors’ purchasing power has decreased nationwide.
“The last time inflation-adjusted salaries declined for two consecutive years was from 1978-79 to 1980-81,” according to the report.
On Dec. 2, 2004, the Board of Trustees ratified an agreement between USF and the United Faculty of Florida that included a 5 percent salary increase pool for faculty, which was the highest raise ever for USF faculty.
Continuing faculty, business and engineering professors reap the highest wages, while humanities professors average the lowest salaries because of student demand for the lack of the latter majors, Vice Provost for Faculty and Program Development Dwayne Smith said.
Public institutions often face competition from private ones in terms of recruiting potential faculty because of pay. However, Smith said USF isn’t concerned with competition in the local area from private colleges such as the University of Tampa and Eckerd College. He said they mainly focus on providing undergraduate degrees and are not classified in the same tier during AAUP research.
“Those institutions are not at our level. They are not research institutions,” he said. Smith said a better private university comparison would be with the University of Miami, because it offers degrees at the doctoral level. Salaries for USF average at $94,400 for 1,692 full-time faculty; at UM they average $111,500 of 2,200 full-time faculty.
AAUP reported the average salary of full-time professors at private colleges was $111,817 compared with $91,367 at public universities. Church-affiliated schools averaged $82,804.
However, public institutions are where 75 percent of students decide to attend, according to the report, and although USF faces competition from UM, the University of Florida is also providing faculty with an average salary of $101,400.
The University of Central Florida, which is not a research institution, has the highest average pay of all Florida public institutions at $104,200, according to the Association of American Universities.