Assistant professors at the University of Mary Washington are the lowest paid assistant professors at any of the 14 public four-year colleges in Virginia, earning on average $48,000 a year, according to a recent national survey.
Their earnings fall $3,300 below the University of Virginia at Wise, which ranks just above UMW in the survey.
“The faculty are of course unhappy with it,” said Keith Mellinger, assistant professor of math and Faculty Affairs Committee chair. “But I think most of us acknowledge it’s not an easy thing to resolve.”
Mellinger was one of the only assistant professors at UMW willing to talk about the issue. Half a dozen other assistant professors declined to comment.
Acting President Rick Hurley said the school has earmarked $280,000-worth of faculty raises to address the situation. In December, assistant professors will receive a $2,000 base-pay hike, and an average 4 percent merit raise. Even with the raises, they will still lag $1,000 behind U. Va.-Wise.
Some private Virginia colleges have assistant professor salaries comparable to Mary Washington’s, but UMW’s assistant professors still rank near the bottom of Virginia’s public and private schools.
Full professors’ salaries at UMW were paid an average of $81,700 last year, according to the American Association of University Professors survey.
Faculty Dean Rosemary Barra said the administration has been monitoring UMW’s standings in the AAUP’s annual faculty salaries survey. Though UMW’s assistant professors are the lowest-paid among public schools, other faculty rank near the middle.
“Part of it has to do with the fact that over recent years we’ve hired a lot of new faculty, and most of them happen to be at the assistant professor level,” Barra said.
According to Barra, the addition of so many new professors with a lower starting salary has brought down the average for the school.
Assistant professors at UMW are not the only ones who will be receiving raises in December. Associate professors will receive $1,500 more and full professors will receive $1,000.
Mellinger said while the salary boost is a positive step, the school will need to do more to address the situation.
Barra agreed, and said UMW is committed to moving the school’s assistant professors up in the state rankings.
“We are going to continue to work on this issue,” she said. “Any time we can identify additional funds, we will use them to increase faculty salaries. This is an institutional priority.”
The additional salary hikes of 4 percent will be distributed based on a merit pay plan. Every full-time faculty member will be evaluated based on teaching, professional activity and service and placed in a merit level from zero to three. The raises will be distributed across four levels so that the total amount of all of them will equal the 4 percent allocated from the state.
Barra said that UMW’s standings may have hurt faculty recruitment in the past. “I think there is a belief that some people are declining job offers based on the salary,” she said. “If we can raise the starting salary, it might make us more competitive,” she said.
Mellinger, who has taught at UMW for five years, says that the school’s top-tier status and the quality of the student body make it a competitive employer.
“The students here are better,” he said. “I enjoy my job here more because of the students. I took a very big pay cut to come here, but I still came. It’s the whole package.”