Making sense of dollars: Crunching the numbers behind Oakland University

By Kevin Graham

In the last year you may have noticed a common logo across the homepages of all Michigan University websites — or maybe you didn’t. The small icon of the mitten state is located at the very bottom of Oakland University’s website. If you click on it, you can learn lots of juicy details — like who makes the most money at OU.

Hint: It isn’t President Gary Russi.

Salary levels across OU range from $400,207 for the medical school dean to $20,197 for the position of shelver in the library.

Those figures are published as part of the “Budget and Performance Transparency Reporting” section located on the bottom of OU’s homepage.

Under a requirement of legislation passed by state lawmakers in 2012, OU is required to make certain documents publicly accessible and available in one place.

These documents include the general fund budget, collectively bargained contracts, data on enrollment and student to faculty ratio, and a list of salaries paid for in whole or in part through the general fund.


Salaries by department

Looking at departments with a primarily academic focus, there is an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The top five academic departments by mean salary are:

-Accounting and finance: $104,436

-Electrical and computer engineering: $104,201

-Decision and information science: $102,484

-Management and marketing: $93,147

-Economics: $92,706

The bottom five average salaries by department are:

-Art and art history: $49,908

-Women’s studies: $50,264

-Philosophy: $50,316

-Library: $52,743

-Continuing education (School of Education and Human Services): $52,897

Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Peggy Cooke deals with issues involving faculty salary.

“Faculty salaries depend on a number of factors, including the market rates for a specific discipline, faculty rank, experience, specific skills etc.,” she said. “The deans and Academic Human Resources work together to establish market salaries for new faculty hires, based upon these variables. Changes in faculty salaries are subject to various provisions in the faculty collective bargaining agreement.”

Karen Miller, president of the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors and an associate professor of history, said she believes a nationwide emphasis on the STEM fields is being reflected at OU.

“I think now the sort of STEM emphasis that we see in higher education today is reflected here on campus,” Miller said. “I’m not at all opposed to that idea. I think we have to understand where the jobs are and what students want to study. I think we do have a responsibility to grow in areas where there is desire to grow.”

In addition to an increased emphasis on certain subject areas, Miller said there are market forces at play which can also affect how much a professor might be paid in one area versus another.

“Most people who get PhDs in history get a PhD because they hope to teach, whereas in other areas, like engineering or finance or certain kinds of medical areas, there are also the private sector employers who have more money who would be willing to pay those people,” she said.


Salaries by gender

Another component of the salary equation for which there is information on OU’s website is salary by gender, a requirement of federal law.

The average salary for a male who has achieved the rank of full professor, the highest teaching position, is $13,657 more than the average full female professor. There are 87 male professors versus 21 women in the same position. These numbers are from 2011, the most recent year for which data was available.

But Laura Schartman, director of the Office of Institutional Research, said that looking at the data in the aggregate can be deceiving.

“A lot of (men) could have been here more (time),” Schartman said. “There hasn’t always been that much equity. More women have been promoted to professor more recently, so that could be part of it. Some of it could be the disciplines that they’re in.”

She said that salaries tend to increase with more time at the institution. Schartman said also that not as many women have entered the fields that are attracting money in the market right now.

According to the 2011 data, there were 113 male and 87 female associate professors. The average male salary was $5,294 more than the average for females.

Male dominance does not hold true at all levels, as female assistant professors and instructors are making a little bit more than their male counterparts.

85 women are assistant professors, compared with 65 men. Women out-earn men by an average of $2,942.

At the instructor level, women earn an average of $1,522 more than men. There are 40 female and 20 male instructors.


Comparison to other schools

Miller is concerned OU may be losing talented faculty to other schools because of lower wage levels.

OU is in the 16th percentile compared to the median for wages when it comes to full professors, according to a 2012 faculty salary survey conducted by the AAUP and published by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Because our salaries are slipping substantially below national averages, I’m afraid that we lose in terms of being able to recruit new faculty and that we also lose faculty to other institutions,” she said. “In my own department, I know several of our assistant professors who have left for other institutions for higher salaries. I’m reasonably convinced that this is something that is happening across the university.”

Miller also discussed a concern that salary of longer serving faculty were depreciating without increases to account for changes in cost of living.

Cooke said salary is an important factor in attracting faculty.

“Compensation strategies are critical to successful recruitment and retention of our faculty and staff,” she said.

Cooke said there are currently no provisions in the faculty contract for cost-of-living raises.

According to the same survey, OU pays faculty at the rank of instructor in the 64th percentile above the national median for that position.