UAF Salaries Get Compared To Those In The Lower 48

Kara Perkins/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 29, 2011

Though it may seem like everything costs more in Alaska, that’s not always true.

The Sun Star compared UAF faculty salaries to those of similar research universities in the Lower 48 as part of the paper’s salary project. The numbers were revealing. UAF’s highest paid professor makes about 55 percent of what the highest paid professor at a comparable peer institution earns.

Using data provided by Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) 2010-2011 Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline, The Sun Star compared salaries between professors, assistant professors and associate professors of UAF and other institutions.

“I would think our salaries are pretty competitive, our cost of living is retardedly high, and I am curious as to what my professors make because I dont know for sure,” said Jack Hughes-Hageman, 19, a business marketing student at UAF.

There are multiple factors that determine salary levels for the faculty at UAF, according to Kate Ripley, public affairs director for the University of Alaska system. The university looks at experience, whether or not tenure has been awarded, performance, and the specific discipline of a faculty member.

“In general, let me say that comparing salaries in any simplistic way can be very misleading,” Ripley wrote in an email.

According to OSU, 118 universities submitted data for the faculty salary survey. UAF was one of the participants. The salary data provided by UAF is from April 2011 and is updated annually, UAF’s Public Information Officer Marmian Grimes explained in an email.

OSU’s objective for the survey was “to provide factual information to assist higher education administrators with salary and budget decisions,” according to the survey. Market demands, skill sets, and individual education and knowledge determine salaries at UAF, Grimes said, but “the university also uses OSU’s survey results for determining appropriate salaries for its faculty.”

The Sun Star examined some of UAF’s most popular departments, including biological sciences, business administration, engineering and psychology. OSU’s 2010-2011 Faculty Salary Survey by Discipline and UAF’s Public Information Officer Marmian Grimes provided the data.

The results of the survey present a broad range of salaries. In the handful of majors discussed, salaries in the survey ranged from more than a $24,000 salary to more than a $280,000 salary. UAF seems to fall somewhere in the middle – reporting a comparable low and high of $36,000 to more than $154,000.

Cecile Lardon, an associate professor of psychology at UAF reported that data from both the American Psychological Association and the American Association of University Professors show that salaries at UAF are significantly lower than at other institutions nationally.

“Professors with serious student loans are financially challenged,” Lardon said.

Considering reportedly higher prices and the inconveniences that go along with living on the Last Frontier, it might seem that salaries for UAF professors would automatically be higher than those in the Lower 48. The data provided suggest that isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, UAF professors’ salaries appear to be rather conservative.

Ironically, the type of life that Alaska has to offer might be the ultimate reason faculty are drawn to teach at UAF.

Sherri Wall, a term instructor of economics at UAF, decided to teach at UAF in 2006 because she felt it was a great opportunity. Although Wall feels faculty salaries are competitive, pay was not a major determinant in choosing a career at UAF, she said.

Lardon, who holds a doctorate degree in community, organizational and social psychology, relocated to UAF from Chicago more than 12 years ago because of the quality of life that Fairbanks has to offer and the opportunities available in her department.

Living in Alaska is expensive no matter what part of the state a person calls home, according to an article on the website for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Economists, Neal Fried and Alyssa Shanks, compared the costs for food, housing, transportation, clothing, and medical care in Alaska with costs in the rest of the nation.

“The university tries to pay competitive salaries at a rate that attracts and retains high quality employees at all levels,” public affairs director Ripley said.

Ripley understands that living in Alaska presents other challenges. Beyond salary is the idea of moving to Alaska, close to the wilderness and with fewer conveniences and luxuries than many residents in the Lower 48 are accustomed to.

“So, in addition to all the other issues involved in recruiting and keeping good employees, there’s always the ‘Alaska factor’ that must be considered,” Ripley said.

For Lardon, the factor of living in Fairbanks might be what appeals to her the most.

“My salary has made me question whether I should stay here but so far I still like this community and university enough to stay,” Lardon said, “but it is becoming more difficult to justify this decision financially.” 

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6 Responses

  1. Eric Collins says:

    Useless use of ‘retarded’. Please pick a different quote next time.

  2. Eric Collins says:

    It would be useful to provide links to all of the Sun Star salary database articles on the database page itself.

  3. Jersey says:

    What happened to the Salary Database? Seems to not be located at the link that gets passed all over the web… would be great to look at it as a reference instead of taking the authors word for it! Someone should post a link to it!

  4. Lakeidra Chavis says:

    Hi,

    Due to technical issues on our website, we had to temporarily remove the database. We hope to have it up against before the semester ends.

    Lakeidra Chavis
    Editor in Chief

  5. nancy says:

    How will we know when the salaries database is back up and running?

  6. Lakeidra Chavis says:

    Hi Nancy,

    We will make an announcement on our Facebook and everyone who’s inquired about it this school year will receive an email notification. This page will be updated as well. Please let me know if you have anymore questions. You can email me at editor@uafsunstar.com

    Lakeidra Chavis
    Editor in Chief

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