By: Cody Boteler, Senior Editor
Bob Caret has returned home after a stint at the University of Massachusetts to become chancellor of the University System of Maryland – and he’s getting paid $600,000 per year to do it, with built-in raises, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.
Caret, a former Towson president, left Towson the first time in 1995 to become president of San Jose State University. Caret was a chemistry professor, dean, executive vice president and then provost at Towson. He later returned to Towson as president from 2003-2011.
In sharp contrast to the salary Caret will collect from the USM, the average salary for a chemistry professor at Towson in 2014 was just over $77,000, according to public-record data on state employee salary.
In 2014, the chemistry department head had a base salary of $86,925, according to a Baltimore Sun database. According to that same database, in 2014, the dean of the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics made a gross income of over $168,000.
“I’m being paid much better than I ever was,” Caret said.
In Caret’s position as chancellor, he will oversee 12 institutions.
As a part of his contract, Caret’s tenure at Towson was reinstated. However, Caret said it is not likely that he’ll be teaching chemistry in a classroom anytime soon.
It’s an increasingly noticed trend in higher education that administrators at universities are making more money than professors are. Akim Reinhardt, an associate professor in the history department, says that he’s been looking at this pay disparity “during the past decade.”
“There was slowdown after 9/11 because the national economy dipped,” Reinhardt said. “When things, economically, went bad in 2009, [an administrator] at the time warned me that jobs [in higher education] were getting canceled all over the country, and he was worried they weren’t coming back.”
Reinhardt has written publicly about the phenomenon of faculty versus administrative salary in a few places, including his own blog.
“You’ve got a faculty roster that is increasingly put to contingency and part-time and an administration that is growing and often bring a corporate philosophy and support staff,” Reinhardt said.
That “corporate philosophy,” Reinhardt said, is universities looking at students as potential customers, and “universities competing with each other for the best customers.”
“All these things are a part of an increasing dissatisfaction among faculty and an increasing level of defensiveness among administrators,” Reinhardt said.
“It just is what it is,” Caret said. “I don’t apologize for it, because it is a reality, but I am sensitive to the issue.”
The median income level of the President’s Council (a group of administrators, including associate vice presidents, the athletic director and some members of the president’s staff) in 2014, based on data available from the Baltimore Sun database, was over $180,000.
Reinhardt said that the issue is not solely that administrators are drawing big paychecks, because “that one paycheck in and of itself is kind of a drop in the bucket of the total budget of the university.”
However, there is a “ripple effect” that helps to drive college costs up — administrators bring with them a support staff, all of whom come with a salary and benefits, like health insurance and pensions.
The highest paid faculty member that The Towerlight could find is a tenured professor in the accounting department with a salary of just over $150,000.
Caret said that he’d like to see professors earn more, “but at the same time there are so many of them that it would be hard to pay more without having to raise tuition.”
Even though academia is in a “quandary,” according to Caret, not everyone has approached the issue with the same “is what it is” attitude as the chancellor.
In May 2014, the University Senate created the faculty salary review committee to, among other responsibilities, “Track problems related to faculty salary compression, inversion, retention/competitiveness,” according to the senate website.
Alex Storrs, an associate professor in the department of physics, astronomy and geosciences, chairs the committee. Storrs said that one of the problems that led to the creation of the committee was salary inversion — a phenomenon where newly hired faculty earn a higher salary than faculty who have been at the university for a longer amount of time. Inversion happens when there isn’t money budgeted to give raises, but new faculty members have to be hired.
According to Interim Provost Maggie Reitz, incremental steps have been taken over “the last several years” to address salary inversion, and that they will be sharing what they’ve been working on at the first University Senate meeting. The first meeting is on Sept. 21 at 4 p.m. in the College of Liberal Arts building.
If the state budgets money for cost of living increases, both faculty and administrative staff are given the raises. When the state budgets money for the university to award merit-based raises, the process is different for administrative staff and professors — though both undergo review.
According to Gary Levy, associate provost for academic resources and planning, a staff person’s supervisor fills out a “performance evaluation document,” and that staff person gets a “meets expectations” or “does not meet expectations” rating.
For faculty, however, the task is a bit more arduous. According to Reitz, each year faculty members put all of their work together and are rated on their teaching, as well as their scholarship and service. A committee reviews their work, and decides if the faculty member is eligible for base merit or “merit plus” raises.
“All base merit folks get the same amount regardless of college,” Levy said. However, merit plus raises will be different, depending on the college. Each college is allocated a certain amount of money for merit plus raises.
“Ideally, it’s all one big happy family and we’re all working together and doing our best,” Storrs said.
However, an operating “guideline” at Towson for how colleges should determine raises may make that scenario less likely.
“There’s been encouragement for colleges and departments to limit their distribution of merit plus to 30 percent,” Reitz said. “This is something that was an initiative from [Interim President Timothy] Chandler when he came here.”
While the 30 percent figure is not a policy, simple math reveals that, when more people get merit plus raises, each person gets a smaller salary bump.
“Under the new system, with just a limited number of merit raises, it actually is to my detriment to help my colleagues,” Storrs said.
“Because there’s a quota, I will not be able to be rewarded for being a good colleague.”
While the number of administrative staff continues to grow at universities across the country, schools are increasingly relying on contingency faculty: adjuncts, lecturers and other professors that are non-tenure track, Reinhardt said.
“All of these positions have less salary, few if any benefits and nothing in the way of job security,” he said.
During the 2014-15 academic year, adjunct faculty taught just over 30 percent of the classes at Towson. Nationally, the number is close to three-quarters of all classes.
Adjuncts at Towson come in two tiers. At tier one, they earn $1,000 per credit hour; tier two adjuncts earn $1,100 per credit hour. To teach more than two classes per semester, adjuncts need special permission from the dean and provost.
So, a tier one adjunct professor, teaching two, three-credit courses for two semesters, would earn just $12,000 in gross income from teaching — a small fraction of what non-contingency faculty earn, and an even smaller fraction of what many administrators earn.
There are some who teach as an adjunct after retirement, or as a way to stay involved in academia. But for young adjuncts, fresh out of their doctoral or graduate programs, teaching may be their only source of income.
“We have adjuncts here for which adjunct teaching is their life,” Storrs said. “They do not have a pension and it’s embarrassing how little we pay them.”
Stephen Yoder does not have any classes at Towson this semester, but is slated to teach in the spring. He’s taught as an adjunct at a few different campuses. At one point, Yoder was teaching six classes at once — four at Towson and two at Smith College.
“We needed that money,” Yoder said. “I was very lucky that Towson called me with that offer.”
Yoder said that his wife has a “more steady” job, with insurance and other benefits that he can make use of.
“So that was very helpful,” he said. “But a lot of adjuncts don’t get that kind of luck.”
Caret returns to Maryland at a time when his former home, Towson, is looking to grow, expand and develop in numerous areas.
Construction is already underway in West Village on new residence halls, expansion work on Burdick Hall has just begun, and there are plans in motion to build a new science building.
Because Towson is a state institution, funding for those and other development projects depend on the decisions of policymakers. As chancellor of the USM, Caret will be spending a lot of time in Annapolis when the legislature is in session.
“One of my primary jobs as the system head is to help the campuses by providing them with the kinds of resources and policies they need,” Caret said.
While Caret once served solely as an advocate for Towson University, he must now advocate for the entire system. Until someone new is appointed, Chandler, as interim president, is Towson’s primary advocate in Annapolis.
To advocate for the school, Chandler spends time in Annapolis — but he can also bring the lawmakers to campus.
“I took them through Smith Hall on the hottest days of the year,” Chandler said. “And I showed them some of the very, very worst spaces in that building, I call them my haunted house tours.”
Chandler said he is meeting with more government officials to tour through Smith Hall to help secure funding for the construction of a new science building.
“I am hoping to get them through right at a class changeover period on a Tuesday or a Thursday, when they are trying to get up those narrow staircases that don’t meet [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements, and say this is what it’s like in this building,” Chandler said. “And by the way, we are going to have at least 2,000 more students on our campus, all of whom will need to go through this building, within the next five years.”
Funding for construction may prove easier to acquire than higher salaries for professorial staff, though.
“I think the tipping point will come if and when parents become aware that so many classes are being taught by people with no job security,” Reinhardt said. “Then they’ll start asking about it.”
College costs are up in part, he said, because the amount of funding that state universities get from the government has gone down, proportionally.
More money has been coming from tuition and other outside sources as governments have looked to trim their budgets.
The pressure for change, Reinhardt said, must come from the people that are paying the bills.
“The ability of schools to fund all of these operations … has come at the expense of students in the form of increased tuition and it’s come at the expense of faculty in erasing secure full-time jobs,” Reinhardt said. “It has not come at the cost of administration.”