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Pitt, Penn State faculty found to receive better-than-average pay

Debra Erdley
| Thursday, April 16, 2015, 10:45 p.m.
The American Association of University Professors found that faculty members at Pitt’s Oakland campus collected average salaries that were thousands of dollars higher than those paid at public research universities across the nation.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
The American Association of University Professors found that faculty members at Pitt’s Oakland campus collected average salaries that were thousands of dollars higher than those paid at public research universities across the nation.

A national survey shows most faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State fare well financially, despite what the schools derided as crippling reductions in state subsidies four years ago.

The American Association of University Professors found that faculty members at Pitt's Oakland campus and Penn State's University Park campus collected average salaries that were thousands of dollars higher than those paid at public research universities across the nation.

That happened even as the flagship universities pared other costs and boosted tuition over four years — by 9.5 percent at Penn State and 10.4 percent at Pitt — to make ends meet.

“The University of Pittsburgh's academic mission is its top priority, and maintaining faculty salaries is a component of that priority,” spokeswoman Cara Masset said. “The university is competing internationally to bring the best faculty members to our world-class research university.”

While full professors at public research universities nationwide earned an average salary of $130,039 in 2014-15, their counterparts at Pitt earned $144,200, and those at Penn State earned $147,000.

Nationally, associate professors at such universities earned an average of $88,716 a year, compared with $96,400 at Pitt and $99,200 at Penn State. Assistant professors earned an average of $77,446 a year nationally, compared with $80,900 at Pitt and $87,200 at Penn State.

Pitt Faculty Senate President Michael Spring, a professor of information science at Pitt, wasn't surprised to see Pitt salaries above the national averages.

“Pitt has, over the last 20 years, risen in the research ranks nationally,” he said, meaning the university is able to attract faculty members who command higher salaries.

“My personal reading is that the faculty pay at Pitt is reasonable. It reflects a tougher recruiting market. Our deans are concerned about people we have who are being stolen away,” Spring said.

Pitt and Penn State are consistently ranked as having the highest and second-highest tuition among the nation's flagship public universities. They maintain tuition reflects a relatively low level of support. Pennsylvania ranked 47th in terms of per capita aid to higher education in a recent survey.

That was after state lawmakers reduced subsidies to the schools by about 20 percent four years ago. In the interim, undergraduate tuition at Penn State increased nearly 9.6 percent from the lowest rate of $15,124 to $16,572; base tuition for students at Pitt increased about 10.5 percent from $15,272 to $16,872 during that period.

That Pitt and Penn State would continue to pay top faculty well was no surprise to John Barnshaw, senior program officer at the American Association of University Professors and research director of the salary survey. Barnshaw, like Spring and Masset, said schools have been thrust into a highly competitive market for talent.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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