Press Release

April 27, 2022

Higher Ed Pay Increases Have Not Kept Pace With Inflation

The soaring inflation rate has far outpaced pay increases for the higher education workforce. According to findings from CUPA-HR’s annual workforce surveys for 2021-22, overall median salaries for administrators increased by 3.4%. Professionals and non-exempt staff saw increases of 2.9%, and salaries for tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty increased by 1.6% and 1.5%, respectively. The inflation rate for 2021 was 6.8% and continues to climb.

This is not the first year that pay increases have not kept up with inflation. Pay increases for administrators, professionals and staff last met or exceeded inflation in 2019-20.  Non-tenure-track faculty salary increases last met or exceeded inflation in 2016-17, and tenure-track faculty salary increases have not kept pace with inflation in any of the past six years.

Explore pay-increase trends on CUPA-HR’s website.

Overall Workforce Size Has Declined in the Wake of the Pandemic

Historically, the overall size of the higher education workforce has increased from year to year. However, colleges and universities are experiencing the same employee recruitment and retention challenges that most U.S. employers have struggled with in the past few years. In both 2020-21 and 2021-22, the size of full-time staff, part-time staff, and tenure-track faculty declined from the prior year.

Two areas of the workforce that saw growth this year were those of non-tenure-track faculty and adjuncts. Although the number of non-tenure-track faculty and adjuncts declined between 2019-20 and 2020-21, those numbers have rebounded in 2021-22.


Explore the trends in workforce size changes on CUPA-HR’s website.

CUPA-HR is the recognized authority on compensation surveys for higher education, with its salary surveys designed by higher ed HR professionals for higher ed HR professionals and other campus leaders. CUPA-HR has been collecting data on the higher ed workforce for more than 50 years, and we maintain one of the largest workforce databases in existence. Learn more about CUPA-HR research.

CUPA-HR is higher ed HR. We serve higher education by providing the knowledge, resources, advocacy and connections to achieve organizational and workforce excellence. Headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, and serving more than 33,000 HR professionals and other campus leaders at nearly 2,000 member institutions and organizations around the country and abroad, the association offers learning and professional development programs, higher education salary and benefits data, extensive online resources and just-in-time regulatory and legislative information.


Contact Information
Missy Kline
Project Manager – Communications and Marketing


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