Press Release

June 22, 2021

Pandemic Shrinks Staff Workforce, Affecting Part-Time Employees Most Drastically

Most non-exempt higher education staff employees perform work that must be completed on campus, so it is understandable that there was a drastic decline in the staff workforce size during the pandemic. According to CUPA-HR’s 2021 Staff in Higher Education Annual Report, part-time non-exempt staff saw the greatest changes in workforce size, with a 17 percent decrease, compared to the prior academic year where the same group grew by 16.4 percent. Full-time non-exempt staff saw a significantly smaller (3.2 percent) decrease in size.

The staff area with the largest reduction over the past year was service/maintenance (-4.1 percent), followed by office/clerical (-3.3 percent) and skilled craft (-2.0 percent). Technical/paraprofessional employees experienced a 1.3 percent increase in size, but this increase was not as large as the increase the prior year (3.4 percent).

It is too early to speculate as to whether these job losses are permanent or temporary. Next year’s data collection will reveal how many of these positions return when more on-campus operations resume.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • The overall median salary increase for staff from 2019-20 to 2020-21 was 0.75 percent, the lowest increase since 2014, when CUPA-HR started collecting data on non-exempt employees.
  • Median salary increases were below 1 percent for all staff — office/clerical, service/maintenance, technical/paraprofessional, and skilled craft. Service/maintenance staff received the largest median increase, whereas skilled craft staff received the smallest median increase.
  • The proportions of women and racial/ethnic minorities in the staff workforce 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 staff positions overall.
  • Continuing trends from past years, women are less represented in service/maintenance and skilled craft positions. Women are paid less than men in all staff positions except office/clerical positions, where women are paid more than men. The pay gap between women and men is most pronounced in skilled craft staff.
  • Minority men make up a little more than one-tenth of staff overall (13.3 percent). Minority women are better represented than minority men; they make up 20 percent of staff.
  • Black and Hispanic/Latinx female staff are paid less than White male staff.
  • If the minimum wage is raised to the proposed $15/hour, as of 2021, 23 percent of staff would require a salary adjustment. The largest salary adjustments would be required for service/maintenance staff, where 40 percent of these staff make below the proposed $15/hour. Looking across the country, the South would see the largest impacts, where 29 percent of staff would require salary adjustments.

A total of 198,531 staff were reported for this year’s survey by 782 higher education institutions, covering 155 positions. This survey collects data at the incumbent level for all staff reported, allowing for the collection of salary, sex, race/ethnicity, age and years in position.

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



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. 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 over 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
Erin Rosolina
Marketing Manager – Communications and Marketing


The CUPA-HR national office will be closed July 4 in observance of Independence Day.