The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life

Really interesting study of economic situation of students

January 27th, 2017

The New York Times has an article along with an online interactive data set exploring the economic background and salary trend of students at a variety of schools. It buys hard into the fallacious connection that is all the rage these days that what you do in college is somehow the prime determinant of your salary in dollars later in life. I wish journalists would challenge that more. But the data are still really cool to examine.

Article: Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours. NY Times: The Upshot, By Gregor Aisch, Larry Buchanan, Amanda Cox and Kevin Quealy, January 18, 2017.

Here are pages for Guilford and for some other colleges we talk about:



High Point University







[link from Jim Hood]

University of Washington struggles with salary policy

June 9th, 2016

Here’s an article about faculty at the University of Washington trying to work on a policy to address salary compression. We have salary compression at Guilford, to be sure, and we also have other issues, many of which are bigger and more pressing than theirs. One major parallel: I see writ large in UW’s proposed solution a desire for more salary transparency and better care of long-term employees.

Seeking Fair Faculty Pay, Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed

Trouble at the College of St. Rose

December 13th, 2015

Here’s a Chronicle article:

College of St. Rose Plans At Least a Dozen Layoffs

And here’s the official message:

Saint Rose Trustees Announce Changes in Academic Programs to Boost Enrollment and Reduce Deficit

People may remember that Carolyn Stefanco was a finalist for the Guilford presidency.

The College of St. Rose is about three times the size of Guilford in terms of enrollment, with a number of graduate programs. Its endowment is far smaller at $37 million. The press release claims over a $9 million operating deficit on a budget that looks like about $117 million, while this year Guilford is working to close a much smaller deficit on a smaller budget. Their faculty salaries are higher than Guilford’s but not by much – about $3000-$6000 or 8-15% depending on faculty rank.

Ayn Rand, BB&T, and Higher Education

October 20th, 2015

Richie Zweigenhaft recommends this Inside Higher Ed article on an upcoming paper by Wake Forest business professor Douglas Beets studying BB&T’s grant program (which Guilford accepted) which requires the teaching of objectivist writer Ayn Rand’s work. Richie says:

“I think some faculty and administrators might find this article, based on an article written by Douglas Beets, a professor of business at Wake Forest, of interest. Beets’ article is titled “BB&T, Atlas Shrugged and the Ethics of Corporation Influence on College Curricula,” and appeared in the Journal of Academic Ethics. The article I have linked below was featured a few days ago in Inside Higher Education. It helps place Guilford’s Ayn Rand grant in the larger constellation of the BB&T Foundations many grants to colleges that included stipulations that students be required to read Atlas Shrugged. Guilford gets mentioned in Beets’ article, but not in the Inside Higher Education article.”


Here’s the article:

Banking on the Curriculum, By Colleen Flaherty

October 16, 2015

Alternate comparison groups for salaries

April 10th, 2015

I’ve heard from several places on campus that we shouldn’t be comparing faculty salaries to AAUP IIB when we look at percentiles for faculty salaries. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable question to raise, although I’m not sure I agree. We want to compare ourselves to institutions like ours when we try to figure out where we are. However, we should be sure we’re changing our peer group because it’s actually a closer peer match, not just so our numbers look better, and if we’re going to consider changing the comparison group for faculty, we should also change it for staff and administrators.

One group that’s been suggested by some is colleges in North Carolina that are four-year private colleges that don’t offer graduate degrees. One problem is that there aren’t many such colleges in the state, so it’s not a large group – less than 20 – and some of them are very unlike Guilford in terms of size, budget, student preparation, and mission. Most are much smaller, have much lower budgets and endowments, and have a significantly lower preparation level for incoming students. However, if we use this group for faculty salary comparisons, our salaries are often in the top half of the list, and in some categories higher. This is a point made by an anonymous commenter to our page for the forum on a salary policy. A later anonymous commenter provided a link to data:

I am not sure where Anonymous at 4:53 is getting their information but looking at the AAUP salary data

Full professors at Guilford are at #6 out of 16 for salary at private baccalaureate institutions in NC

Associate professors at Guilford are at #8 out of 16 for salary at private baccalaureate institutions in NC

Assistant professors at Guilford are #8 out of 16 for salary at private baccalaureate institutions in NC

I did some further research using IPEDS data, which is a government database that collects information from colleges and universities. It is not without its problems in terms of consistency of reporting, but it’s at least a baseline comparison. I tried to look at how much of a priority faculty salaries were at each North Carolina baccalaureate institution in their budget, and this is the comparison I came up with:

Salary Comparison

As you can see, Guilford is at the lower end of North Carolina colleges in terms of percent of overall budget spent on instruction, which seems to me to support the idea that regardless of comparison group, we have prioritized faculty salaries at a lower level than other colleges. If we spent 28-30% of our total budget on faculty salaries instead of 23%, our faculty pay rates would have met the 50th percentile goal compared to AAUP IIB that we’ve put in our strategic plans.

That’s not to say that this would have been possible, or smart, or that staff haven’t also suffered from low pay, but numerically, it is interesting.


Alternate administrative structures – Williams College

April 9th, 2015

Anders Selhorst sent me the following as an e-mail, and I asked if I could post it here. He agreed.

In light of the conversation yesterday, I think it might be helpful for faculty and College leadership to look at other models for our College administrative positions. There are other models that not only leverage the talents of senior faculty but also nurture the culture of faculty service for the College but in an administrative function.

I am not sure if I mentioned this to you, but Williams College appoints senior faculty to dean and provost level posts for three year terms–each is released from teaching responsibilities during that time. There are three rotating faculty that serve as part of the nine senior staff, which include the Dean of the College, Dean of the Faculty, and the Provost. Each serving faculty member in such a role does not make a salary above that of a full professor. The Williams College model has helped keep their manager salaries low and overall personnel costs low–which have fallen by 12% over the past 12 years. See the 2:39 minute mark in this video:

This is remarkable especially since our management costs have risen over that same time period. There are also other benefits to this model that senior faculty could more adequately speak to, for which I can not, and I welcome their input.

This alternative management structure not only keeps salaries at a reasonable rate for faculty serving in administrative roles, but it also reinforces faculty leadership of the college. The term limit of three years also allows for regular intervals where new ideas are introduced, provides more sunlight and transparency of the work of administration and the board of trustees, and allows for greater distribution of shared-leadership responsibilities across all senior faculty.

The salary savings created by adopting this model would lead to more money available to provide greater salary money to correct current flaws in the pay-scale across all faculty and staff levels. But, some of this savings could also be targeted for hiring outside consultants for guidance during challenging times, in a temporary capacity. This model seems like a more sustainable model for small liberal arts colleges.

Please advise if you need more details.



Sweet Briar’s woes

March 4th, 2015

Many of you have probably heard that a relatively nearby small liberal arts college, Sweet Briar College, is closing after this year due to declining enrollments and financial problems.  If you want a summary, see this article from Inside Higher Ed.

This is clearly a drastic solution to this kind of problems, especially as they had an endowment of comparable size to ours. I was curious on hearing this how parallel our situations were, so I did a little comparative digging.

On the one hand, we are totally Sweet Briar. Our traditional enrollments have dropped 20% over the past five years, while theirs dropped only 10%, and our CCE credit hours have dropped by 45%. Our traditional discount rate has climbed from 43% to 53%, and theirs climbed from 49% to 62% over the same period. Our student problems are worse, our discount problems are better, but still very similar.

So what made them decide to throw in the towel, especially when they still had a large endowment? What does that mean for us? Well, on the other hand, we’re not Sweet Briar. It’s hard to get a handle on their budget deficits exactly, but they must have been large. For example, here are some graphs of IPEDS data from recent years with comparison to Guilford:


This is all the money they made from revenue and from investment on their large endowment (currently over $90 million) , minus their total listed expenses. If these numbers are right, they had a $9 million loss in 2011-12. This could be related to a building project or something big rather than systematic losses, but it’s still a big number.


This is the bigger problem. Sweet Briar looks like it is tuition dependent like we are (maybe not exactly to the same degree, as their budget is 2/3 ours and their endowment is a little bigger, but it’s close). However, their spending on salaries and benefits is close to ours. The graph above looks at the difference between tuition and fees revenue and salaries and benefits, and you can see that Guilford is still positive (though shrinking), while Sweet Briar was spending a lot more on its work force than it was bringing in through tuition. That looks a lot like they had no path to sustainability, and were probably looking at a short future where they spent out the endowment in deficits over the course of maybe a decade.

Grim stuff – I think we’re not where they are, by a long shot, but we’re on the road that leads the same place. Time to change course.

The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life