Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Student Compensation: Are Students "Underpaid?"
by Matt Denhart
Previously, we reported that college presidents, particularly ones at research-oriented institutions, have done exceedingly well financially in recent years. Continued research on salaries has unveiled yet another inequality. As already reported, the growth in salaries of presidents greatly exceeds that of the faculty who are actually doing the teaching and research. However, the most essential aspect of any university has been left from the equation: the students. Certainly the students are not earning an income; they are actually paying a good deal of money to attend an institution of higher education. However, financial aid does much to alleviate the cost of attendance, and one might consider financial aid as the equivalent of a student’s “salary.”
We have already reported changing salaries of presidents and faculty over the time period of 1996-97 to 2004-05. As the graph above shows, we have calculated the median growth (for four broad categories of four year institutions) in real per student financial aid. In real terms, the typical university president saw his or her salary increase 37.4 percent over these eight years. Compared with 27.6% for faculty and only 20.9 percent for students..
Obviously there is great inequality in the rate of salary increase, with students losing out. As more and more money is poured into the system, the top administrators are increasing their own financial well-being at the greatest rate. The hierarchy with students at the bottom seems to be a continuing trend in other areas beside salaries, evidenced by things such as continued rising tuition, enormous fees, limited access to required classes, etc.
The education and well-being of students should be the top priority of any non-profit college or university. However, such statistics seem to prove that this noble goal of the academy is no longer a reality. Perhaps we need to take a step back to reassess how we view and treat students, the whole rationale for universities.
Matt Denhart is an undergraduate student at Ohio University and is a research assistant at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.