Administrators got little or no pay increases in 2020-21, survey shows

CUPA-HR's report notes just how challenging year was for higher education institutions and their leaders.
By: | April 27, 2021
ArtInspiring/Adobe

No surprise, higher education institutions did not enjoy a windfall during the past year and neither did their administrators.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the pinch on college and university budgets during 2020-21, and its leaders for the most part saw record-low pay increases because of it, according to an annual survey done by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).

In fact, most saw either no increases or minute rises in salary, according to the Administrators in Higher Education Survey, which gathered feedback from more than 1,000 institutions on the salaries of 48,000 administrators nationwide.

CUPA-HR noted the only group to see a slight bump were “the lowest-paid administrators”, those who were in the Heads of Division, Departments and Centers category, such as bursars and administrators of bookstores, student housing and benefits (+0.4%).

The other categories: Top Executive Officers, Senior Institutional Officer, Institutional Administrators, Academic Deans and Associate Deans basically experienced no pay increases, leading to a total increase of 0.36% in 2020-21, by far the lowest in the past three cycles. (Each of the past two hovered around 2.7%). CUPA-HR, which serves some 2,000 institutions, noted that many university presidents opted to forgo some of the niceties that typically go with the position, such as “a car, club membership, and/or housing subsidies.”

Those who did see increases in pay tended to be faculty, professionals and staff.

One small positive from the survey was that overall administration workforce increased 0.2%, which bettered the numbers from 2019-20 (-0.4%), though baccalaureate and associate’s institutions did see slight declines in the past year while the number of leaders from master’s and doctoral institutions rose.

Although there were some position cuts nationwide, women and ethnic minorities did not experience a decline in overall numbers from the previous year. However, that could not sugarcoat their continued lack of representation and/or pay in administration positions. CUPA-HR noted two significant data points from its findings:

  • Women receive less compensation across the board in every category, but most especially among Deans and Associate Deans. They also tend to get fewer jobs in the top-paying administrative positions.
  • Only 7% of administrators are Black, Hispanic/Latinx and Asian men, and only 9% are minority women.