Unionizing pays big dividend for profs at public universities

Unionizing Pays Big Dividend for Professors at Regional Public Universities

By Peter Schmidt

Full-time instructors at regional public universities earn an average of about $21,000, or nearly 25 percent, more in pay and benefits annually if they belong to a union, concludes a groundbreaking new study of compensation at such institutions.

The location and size of the employer also makes a big difference. Those in larger suburban public universities, the highest-paying category of institutions studied, earned an average of nearly $17,000, or 20 percent, more in pay and benefits annually than those at midsize rural institutions, the lowest-paying category.

Such pay gaps become even larger when all three factors — location, size, and union status — are considered together. Unionized instructors at larger suburban institutions earn an average of about $40,000, or 50 percent, more than their nonunionized peers at midsize rural institutions, the study found.

Past research on faculty earnings at public universities has offered a distorted picture by lumping in data from state flagships and from regional institutions, argues a paper summarizing the study’s findings.

Given how the nation’s 390 public regional universities differ from flagships in their missions, student populations, and faculty workloads, they “deserve analysis in their own right,” says the paper, presented in New York on Sunday at the annual conference of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions.

The paper says the new study also differs from other research on faculty earnings in that it takes into account not just salaries but fringe benefits as well. To provide such an analysis, however, the researchers had to use data from the 2010-11 academic year, because the Education Department stopped collecting information on faculty benefits after that point.

The new paper’s authors are Nathaniel J. Bray, an associate professor of higher-education administration at University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; Stephen G. Katsinas, a professor of higher education administration at Alabama and director of its Education Policy Center; and Johnson A. Ogun, a fellow at the center and an assistant professor of culinary arts at the University of North Alabama. Mr. Bray and Mr. Katsinas found similar payoffs to unionization in a study of community-college instructors’ earnings published last year.

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