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November 8, 2012

Cost of living makes Pitt faculty pay go farther vs. AAU peers

A new analysis of faculty salary data shows that when cost-of-living differences are accounted for, Pitt faculty members’ smaller paychecks go farther than do those of many higher-paid colleagues at peer institutions.

Each year, the University Senate budget policies committee (BPC) reviews the University’s Management Information and Analysis office’s report that compares Pittsburgh campus faculty and librarian salaries with public Association of American Universities (AAU) peers. (See Oct. 11 University Times.)

The report also ranks salaries on the Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown campuses with a peer group of Carnegie category IIB  (undergraduate baccalaureate-level) schools in nearby regions.

In discussing the 2011-12 academic year results at their Sept. 28 meeting, BPC members noted that cost of living is a factor that previously had not been examined in the report.

David DeJong, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, agreed to present the salary data, adjusted for cost-of-living differences, at the University Senate budget policies committee’s Oct. 26 meeting.

Pittsburgh faculty salaries, unadjusted

Average salaries for professors, associate professors and librarians on the Pittsburgh campus rank near the middle when compared with 33 other public AAU peers.

In academic year 2011-12, Pitt professors ranked No. 16 while associate professors and librarians ranked No. 14. Assistant professors were lower, ranking No. 26.

Pittsburgh salaries, adjusted for cost of living

However, when cost-of-living differentials are made part of the comparison, the Pitt salaries moved up.

• Professors (whose salaries averaged $134,800) rose 11 places to No. 5.

UCLA, ranked No. 1 in the unadjusted comparison with professors averaging $162,600, fell to No. 19 when cost of living was considered.

At the other end of the scale, No. 34 Oregon, whose professors averaged $112,300, moved up to No. 31 in the adjusted salary rankings.

• Associate professors on the Pittsburgh campus, whose pay averaged  $90,000, moved up eight places to No. 6 when cost of living was a factor.

No. 1 UCLA (with average salary of $107,400 for the rank) fell to No. 21 in the adjusted rankings. Bottom-ranked University of Missouri-Columbia, where associate professors earned an average of $75,900, moved up to No. 19.

• Pitt’s 26th-ranked assistant professors (with salaries averaging $75,000) moved up 17 places to No. 9 in buying power.

No. 1 UC-Berkeley, where assistant professors averaged $92,300, fell to No. 25 in the adjusted rankings. Bottom-ranked Missouri-Columbia (averaging $61,700 for the rank) moved from 34th to 24th when salaries were adjusted for cost of living.

• Pitt librarians, who averaged $71,400, moved up 11 places to No. 3 in the adjusted rankings. Rutgers-New Brunswick librarians, who were highest-paid with an average of $91,000, dropped to No. 12 when cost of living was taken into account. Librarians at Missouri-Columbia, whose average of $58,400 placed them at the bottom of the unadjusted salary ranking, moved up 10 places to No. 18 in the adjusted ranking.


DeJong said the cost-of-living calculations were based on the 2011 third-quarter ACCRA cost of living index (COLI) produced by the Council for Community and Economic Research ( For peer institutions whose city was not included in the ACCRA COLI, the nearest city to the institution was used, he said.

Of the 34 cities with AAU public institutions, the cost of living in Pittsburgh ranked 26th, above Penn State, Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State and Missouri.

Six of the top nine highest-cost regions were home to California state schools, with UC-Irvine topping the list. There, it would take $150 to equal $100 in buying power in Pittsburgh. SUNY-Stony Brook, Maryland and Rutgers also were near the top of the cost-of-living rankings.

Regional campus salary comparisons

The cost of living for Pitt’s regional campuses was calculated using Sperling’s BestPlaces (, which DeJong said provides cost of living estimates for suburban and rural areas. Comparisons used Bradford as a benchmark, which DeJong said fell between Greensburg and Johnstown in cost of living.

For the cost-of-living comparison, a set of 21 schools from among the 236 IIB peers was selected for each faculty rank.

DeJong said a statistical procedure was used to select institutions across the full range of salary averages. The highest and lowest schools and those from every 5th percentile — a total of 21 in all — were chosen for each faculty rank.

He explained: “It gives a perfect snapshot across the distribution of salaries, perfectly spread out across the distribution. But at the same time it gives you a random selection of the institutions. It’s random who falls on the 5th percentile, who falls on the 10th percentile and so on.”

Because the distribution differed for each faculty rank, a different set of schools was used for each rank in order to maintain a uniform set of steps across the salary averages.

• In the unadjusted rankings, full professors on Pitt’s three IIB regional campuses ranked at the bottom of the 5th decile with an average salary of $78,200. In the adjusted rankings, professors’ salaries rose to No. 6, putting Pitt in the 75th percentile, DeJong said.

• Unadjusted salaries for associate professors on the regional campuses ranked in the middle of the 5th decile at $64,400. In the adjusted rankings, they rose to No. 2, or the 95th percentile, he said.

• In the unadjusted rankings, assistant professors at the regional campuses ranked near the bottom of the 6th decile with an average salary of $52,700. In the adjusted rankings, they rose to No. 4, or the 85th percentile, DeJong said.

He noted that assistant professors fail to rank on par with peers’ median salaries in the unadjusted comparisons, both in Pittsburgh and on the regional campuses. “But when we adjust, we see that we are 8.8 percent higher than the median in the regionals and 15.9 percent higher in Pittsburgh,” he said.

BPC member Michael Spring, who sought the analysis, said he was glad to see the adjusted comparison. “I do believe this is an important consideration.”

Other committee members noted that the specific information could be important to department chairs in recruiting, enabling them to provide firmer numbers rather than simply noting that the Pittsburgh area has a relatively low cost of living.

Charts from DeJong’s presentation are posted at

Click on image to download complete analysis.

Click on image to download complete analysis.


In other business:

• In response to BPC’s request for an update on the departments of German, classics and religious studies, in which graduate admissions were suspended last spring (see June 14 University Times), DeJong reported no formal recommendations have been offered, but that dialogue is continuing between the department chairs and Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences administrators.

“There is a continuing active dialogue,” DeJong said.

BPC agreed to request either to send a representative to the Dietrich school’s planning and budgeting committee meeting, or to invite its PBC chair to meet with BPC.

BPC chair John J. Baker reiterated that the committee’s interest in the issue stems from BPC’s duty to ensure planning and budgeting system (PBS) processes are followed.

“When the suspensions were first announced last April, a number of individuals did protest,” Baker said. “The primary concern, then and now, is that the process be more transparent — that there be dialogue and clarity in terms of what is going to happen.”

Baker was scheduled to report on the issue at the Nov. 7 Faculty Assembly meeting, after the University Times went to press.

Baker added that the University’s planning and budgeting documents call for an impact statement if departments are going to be modified. Noting that it apparently had not been done in this case, “I would hope that at some point it would be part of the process,” he said.

“We just want to see the process go through properly and be as transparent as possible.”

BPC member Phil Wion added that it is important that the process is completed quickly so the three programs don’t risk languishing if graduate admissions are suspended for multiple years.

• The Office of the Provost continues to accumulate information in order to prepare a report on University units’ salary reconsideration policies and the procedures for requesting salary reconsideration. (See Oct. 11 University Times.)

DeJong said units had been asked to report on their process as well as the past three years’ activity under the process.

• BPC requested a survey of the status of all University units’ PBCs. The last survey was done in 2009. (See June 11, 2009, University Times.)

Chief Financial Officer Arthur J. Ramicone agreed to convey the request to his staff.

• DeJong said a report on gender equity in faculty salaries is complete. It will be presented to the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns before being brought to BPC, he said.

Ramicone noted that an attribution study (that reports revenues and expenses attributable to each of the University’s academic units and other responsibility centers) is complete and must be presented to UPBC before it comes to BPC. No date has been set for when those documents would be presented to BPC.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 45 Issue 6

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