Despite a pay freeze at the College, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) reports that this year the salaries received by Bowdoin's full-time full professors are the 10th highest in the country among liberal arts colleges.
According to the report, the average salary for such Bowdoin professors is $127,800, associate professors bring home $89,300 and assistant professors earn $69,800. These figures are down from last year when full Bowdoin professors earned $129,200, associate professors received $90,200 and assistant professors earned $71,500.
According to Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, the averages decreased due to the usual retirement and promotion of faculty members coupled with the pay freeze.
"In any year there are a number of faculty leaving a given rank," she wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "That means that typically the highest paid in each rank leave that rank to become the lowest paid in the next. So, absent the normal salary increases, the lowest-paid level of each rank gains new members, which has the effect of pulling the average salary in each pool down. This does not result in a decrease in the overall faculty salary budget, but a change in the salary distribution within rank."
Bowdoin managed to slip into the top 10 by leapfrogging Swarthmore, whose pay freeze produced a slightly larger reduction of average full-time full professor salaries, dropping from $129,600 last year to $127,200 this year. Wellesley took the top spot on the list with an average of $142,900, while Amherst and Williams came in at $135,300 and $130,500, respectively.
Although faculty pay was frozen at its fiscal year (FY) 2009 amount of $19,890,000 at the recommendation of President Barry Mills and the Blue Tarp Committee, hiring has continued so that retirements and departures don't shrink the overall number of professors at the College.
"Hiring is not frozen—we are replacing people as they leave," said Judd.
Faculty payroll is the second-largest item on the College's operating budget summary for FY 2010 (after administrative and support payroll), comprising 16 percent of the total budget. Bowdoin has long offered competitive pay thanks to the 30-year-old, but currently suspended, "four-five-six policy." That policy ensures, according to the College's 2006 reaccreditation self-study, that the "salaries at each professional rank [are] comparable to those of the fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-ranking institutions in a list of 18 similar colleges."
Judd explained that when in effect, the four-five-six policy increased continuing faculty pay "by a percentage equal to a three-year lagging average of average percentage increases for continuing faculty" at whichever three schools determined the increase.
Of the colleges that landed in the top 10 of the AAUP report, five of them—Wellesley, Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan and Smith—are part of that 18-college comparison group. Judd said that the College's 10th place ranking in the AAUP and sixth-place position in the comparison group are "exactly where we would expect to be as a result of the four-five-six policy."
One issue with inter-college comparisons is that the AAUP data is not adjusted for cost of living expenses. So while full professors at Pomona and Barnard earn around $134,000 a year, that money isn't going to have the purchasing power in Claremont and New York City that it has in Brunswick.
In fact, according to data from the website Sperling's Best Places, all nine colleges paying higher than Bowdoin are located in areas with a higher cost of living than Brunswick.
"Cost-of-living comparison[s]...may well play into individual decisions that prospective faculty members make as they consider an offer from Bowdoin, as do many other factors—ability to conduct research, library, living in Maine and so forth," said Judd. "It may well make coming to Bowdoin a more attractive option."
However, Judd said she was not aware that the Office of Academic Affairs had "ever done a direct cost-of-living" study of peer colleges.
"I would agree...anecdotally that—especially compared to southern California—the cost of living is lower in Brunswick than in the areas where many of our peers are located," she added. "The salient point to take away is that the trustees of the College have strongly supported a faculty compensation policy that recognizes and rewards the excellence of our faculty and underlines the College's commitment to recruiting and retaining the very best faculty in the country."