Professor salaries show academic inequality

Daniel Horowitz, Associate Views Editor

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

In the United States, we have an issue when it comes to how we value those who teach in our educational system.

Many have heard the story of teachers at elementary, middle and high school levels who are undervalued and underpaid, but this issue continues to the collegiate level. Even though they are highly educated individuals who are responsible for the higher learning of students, college and university professors are often underpaid for their work. This disparity is consistent at Tulane University.

The salaries of college professors can depend on a multitude of factors. They can rely on the topic of instruction, the location of the institution, the professor’s experience or whether the institution is private or public.

For example, a tenured professor who teaches engineering at a school in California might get paid more than an associate professor in liberal arts at a Louisiana university. Professors with higher salaries typically do research or teach for masters and doctorate programs. Gender may also play a role.

The difference in pay could be due to several things. First, in regards to public universities, states with more funding for education can pay their professors more.

Second, higher salaries go to those who teach in the sciences or business programs. In 2011, an average salary for a full professor of business would be over $111,000, while a full professor of visual and performing arts would be payed around $79,000. While these specific salaries do not seem problematic in and of themselves, this difference in pay prioritizes certain subjects and discourages those who teach in other fields, especially since these salaries diminish greatly before reaching full professor status.

In the same year, the salary for a new assistant professor of business was $93,926, as opposed to $50,618 for a new assistant professor of visual and performing arts. These pay practices reward some specialists while disadvantaging those with different kinds of knowledge.

The fact that issues with salaries extend into institutions of higher education is ridiculous.

Some professors will earn a decent wage along with the fulfillment that comes with teaching, especially at private institutions like Tulane. There needs to be more equity in how schools decide professors’ salaries.

For truly equal pay in academia to occur, two things need to happen. The first is that we need to invest more in education on a national scale. Public institutions could then afford to pay professors higher wages. Second, all schools both public and private need to treat various fields more equally.

Certain fields should not be treated with more prestige than others. All academic scholars are contributing to greater bodies of knowledge and teaching younger generations of adults.

Academic institutions can and should certainly provide higher salaries for professors who have more experience as well as to those who teach higher levels of education. Universities cannot continue to discriminate based on factors like subjects of interest. That could mean driving young adults away from programs or majors that fuel their passions, and there are no benefits to that.

Daniel is a junior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]