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The Zitzewitz Files: Faculty Pay

After laying out the fact that tenure-line faculty salaries at Dartmouth are only 10% of the total cost of running the College (they are just under one-sixth of payroll), Economics Professor Eric Zitzewitz described in June’s faculty meeting how the compensation paid to the College’s professors compares with pay at other top-ranked schools. He made sure to note for the mathematically insensitive that relatively significant changes to professors’ salaries (say +/-10%) have only a minor impact on the College’s overall spending (+/-1%).

In 2010, the first full year of the Kim administration, salaries paid to the faculty ceased tracking the evolution of compensation paid to professors at various groupings of the nation’s top-ranked schools. The drop placed the College on a different tier, only slightly above the compensation paid to the U.S. News 2nd 10 schools rather than the U.S. New Top 10:

Faculty Salaries Comparative.jpg

(Note: COFHE stands for the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, an association of 31 élite schools — including all of the Ivies — who follow need-blind application policies.)

Of course, money goes a ways further in the Upper Valley than it does in Cambridge, Manhattan, and other Ivy towns, but in the recruitment sweepstakes, a competitive salary and low-cost of living have always enabled the College to attract strong professors to New Hampshire.

More disturbing were the data that our salary ranking under Kim’s aggressive policies dropped us almost in the same way that our SAT rankings dropped (from around 11-12th to the 16th rank or far below):

Faculty Salary Rank.jpg

Professor Zitzewitz’ disaggregation of the data into Full, Associate and Assistant Professor figures illustrates that both Jim Kim and Jim Wright paid long-time, tenured faculty proportionately more than incoming, not-yet-tenured professors. One cannot help come to the conclusion that salaries were set with short-term, political goals in mind, rather than a concern for the ongoing ability of the College to attract the most promising young faculty members.

I wish that Professor Zitzewitz had also compared staff compensation with the wages paid by employers where the College’s thousands of staff members might otherwise work if they were not at Dartmouth. Many of our faculty members could teach at other top schools, but almost all members of the staff would work with local companies and institutions in northern New England. Any rigorous analysis of this question would complement the information on the relative under-payment of the faculty with data on the gross over-payment of most staff members.

The Dartmouth administration set its top priority long ago; it is not education.

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