Putting Education Reform To The Test

Feedback Loop: Responding To Critics About Professor Pay

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Readers said our post comparing professor pay was misleading.

Earlier this week we reported on professor salary data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

That data showed that a pair of University of South Florida branch campuses pay higher average salaries than the main Tampa campus. The data also showed that the University of Miami reported the highest average professor pay in the state.

Readers felt the way we presented the data was misleading or “useless” without the proper context. We disagree, but that’s later.

Here’s Political Science Prof‘s take:

The salaries listed are the salaries for full professors, the highest rank in the academic hierarchy and reached only after many years of service.Ā  Assistant professors, the lowest tenure track rank, earn significantly less, not to mention instructors.Ā  The figures should further be seen in the light of the character of the university.Ā  The University of Miami has a medical school.Ā  In order to retain faculty and not loose them to the private sector.Ā  This also explains the higher income for the University of South Florida Polytechnic faculty, which surely consists of many engineersĀ for whom the private sector is always an attractive alternative to the grind of academia.

And Business Prof followed up:

Political Science Prof is correct. The salary data reported by O’Connor are useless. Even worse, it seems designed to inflameĀ outrage amongĀ FloridaĀ citizens/taxpayers and our conservative state legislators about the inflated salaries of professors at public universities in Florida. At USF Polytechnic the data on professors’ salaries refer to 6-8 people, some of whom are administators with full-professor rank.Ā I see that thisĀ story has now been ‘picked up’ by WUSF, one of the Florida NPR affiliates that sponsors the StateImpact Florida project. I expected more from our NPR affiliate, which is why I (at least up till now!) have contributed to WUSF every year.

To address those points:

Political Science Prof is right, the data does refer to full professors. We could have identified that in the post.

However, colleges and universities use associate and assistant professors and instructors differently. We thought the most sensible comparison was “full professors,” which seems to be the end career goal and the top of the academic food chain.

The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the salary data this way: “Figures reflect the earnings of full-time members of each institutionā€™s instructional staff, except those in medical schools.”

We’re treating this salary comparison as a single data point and not trying to draw any broad conclusions from it. If there is a better salary comparison out there, we’d like to see it. Feel free to send an email to joconnor@stateimpact.org.

Thanks for the criticism — we appreciate readers fact-checking our work.

Reader reaction is an important part of building StateImpact Floridaā€™s education coverage. Feedback Loop will be a regular feature highlighting your questions, criticisms and comments.


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