The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

New Report Findings: Higher Ed Administrators Overall Received Near-Zero Pay Increases Over the Past Year

The severe budget cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many colleges and universities to freeze hiring, cut positions, and, in some cases, decrease salaries. According to CUPA-HR’s recently released Administrators in Higher Education Annual Report, when salary increases occurred in the higher ed workforce over the past year, they tended to go to faculty, professionals and staff rather than administrators. Higher ed administrators overall received near-zero pay increases.

The overall median salary increase for administrators from 2019-20 to 2020-21 was 0.36 percent, the lowest increase since 2010, when the last recession occurred. The low increase is particularly striking when compared to the previous two years, with median salary increases of 2.73 percent in 2019 and 2.67 percent in 2020. This year’s increase was the lowest of any sector of the higher ed workforce — lower than that for faculty, professionals or staff.

The only category of administrators to receive what could be considered a salary increase were heads of divisions, who are among the lowest-paid administrators, with a slight increase of 0.403 percent. Every other category of administrator received no increase or a near-zero increase.

Other key findings:

  • The size of the administrator workforce overall did not change greatly over the past year. In 2019-20, the number of administrators decreased by 0.4 percent. In 2020-21, the number of administrators increased slightly by 0.2 percent. Master’s and doctoral institutions increased the number of administrators reported, whereas baccalaureate and associate’s institutions decreased their administrator workforce size.
  • The proportions of women and racial/ethnic minorities within administrative positions are not much different from last year, indicating that cuts made during the past year did not disproportionately impact the representation of women and minorities in administrative positions overall.
  • Continuing trends from past years, women are less represented in higher-paying administrative positions and more represented in lower-paying positions. For all administrative categories, women are paid less than men. The pay gap between women and men is most pronounced among deans and associate/assistant deans.
  • Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Asian men make up less than one-tenth of administrators (7 percent). Minority women also make up less than one-tenth of administrators (9 percent) but are slightly better represented among administrators overall than are minority men.
  • For presidents, executive perks may have been impacted by budget challenges created by the pandemic. In 2020-21, fewer presidents received a car, club membership, and/or housing subsidies.

A total of 47,985 administrators were reported for this year’s survey by 1,053 higher education institutions. The 202 positions surveyed include top executive officers; senior institutional and chief functional officers; institutional administrators; heads of divisions, departments and centers; academic deans; and academic associate/assistant deans.

To learn more about the Administrators in Higher Education Survey, read the overview. Salaries, demographic comparisons and detailed trend information are available in the full report.