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Salaries of College and University Senior Administrators Increase 2 Percent in 2011

March 16, 2012

The annual median salary of senior-level administrators at U.S. colleges and universities rose 2 percent in from 2010 to 2011, according to the most recent Administrative Compensation Survey conducted by the College and University Personnel Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR). The annual CUPA-HR survey measures changes in annual salaries for senior-level staff employed at colleges and universities in the United States. The 2 percent median gain in yearly pay reported for these staff during the academic year 2010-11 to 2011-12 time span trailed the 3.2 percent increase in inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) during the same period. In addition, roughly 39 percent of the institutional respondents reported that they gave no increases in salary to senior administrators. Among those schools that provided a increase pay, the median raise was 2.5 percent. The median salary increase also varied by type of college. At private non-profit colleges and universities, median pay rose 2.5 percent, compared with 1.5 percent at public institutions.

As the overall economy begins to improve, pay increases have been slightly higher. In 2009, median pay was flat and in 2010 pay grew by just 1.3 percent. Pay for senior staff at public colleges and universities was flat in both 2010 and 2011, while at private institutions median pay grew by 2 percent in 2011 after being flat during the prior year.

Chief Business Officers Do Slightly Better

For CBOs, the annual salary from 2010 to 2011 increased at a slightly higher rate than the national median. Overall, chief business officers’ median pay increased 2.7 percent, from $162,828 in 2010 to $167,197 in 2011. As might be expected, there were very large differences in the 2011 salaries of business officers at different types of colleges and universities. At doctoral granting universities (public and private non-profit institutions combined), CBOs earned $236,022. In contrast, business leaders at master’s-level institutions earned $169,243, while those at baccalaureate-level institutions earned $154,500.

Outlook on Hiring Improves

As a result of the economic crisis, CUPA-HR added a new question in 2009 that asked institutions to report on their expectations of filling any new or vacant staff positions during the current year when compared to the year prior. Roughly 6.2 percent of institutions who participated in the 2012 survey said they were either significantly or somewhat more likely to hire new professional staff in 2012, while 18.9 percent said they were somewhat or significantly less likely to hire new professional-level personnel. In the 2011 survey, nearly one quarter of respondents said they were somewhat or significantly less likely to hire new professional staff, while 7.4 percent said they were somewhat or significantly more likely to make these hires. The noticeable decline in the share of respondents who said they were less likely to hire new staff suggests that job offers at colleges and universities may pick up in 2011-12.

Copies of the 2011-12 Administrative Compensation Survey report may be purchased from the CUPA-HR web site.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis