Staff in Higher Education Survey Methodology, 2021-22


CUPA-HR has been collecting data on higher ed (primarily non-exempt) staff since 2014. The data collection period for CUPA-HR’s Staff in Higher Education Survey ran from November 1, 2021, to January 14, 2022. The survey was conducted through Surveys Online.[1]


The survey collected data on 155 positions grouped into the following categories:[2]

    • Office/Clerical Staff
      • Examples: Administrative Assistant, Records Clerk, Student Services Coordinator
    • Service/Maintenance Staff
      • Examples: Construction Laborer, Custodian/Housekeeper, Food Server
    • Technical/Paraprofessional Staff
      • Examples: Paralegal, Medical Billing Specialist, IT Systems Specialist
    • Skilled Craft Staff
      • Examples: Electrician, Carpenter, Machinist


This year’s survey includes data for 201,291 staff. For each staff employee reported, the following data were collected:

  • Annualized base salary (effective date November 1, 2021)
  • H-1B status
  • Exempt/non-exempt status
  • Full-time/part-time status
  • Sex (optional)
  • Race/ethnicity (optional)
  • Year entered current position (optional)
  • Birth year (optional)
  • State of residence

Participants could either enter this data manually online for each employee or upload a file containing this data.

Institutional Basics

Basic data on institutional characteristics were collected from all participants:

  • Total expenses reported to IPEDS in 2020-21
  • Student enrollment (effective date approximately October 15, 2021)
  • Faculty size (effective date November 1, 2021) and number of separations in the past year
  • Staff size (effective date November 1, 2021) and number of separations in the past year
  • Human resources staff size and number of separations in the past year
  • CHRO reporting relationship
  • Whether collective bargaining exists for the following groups:
    • Full-time faculty
    • Part-time or adjunct faculty
    • Full-time staff
    • Graduate students

Basic information on total expenses as well as student, faculty, and staff size were required questions. All other questions were optional.


Respondents were largely human resources professionals from higher education institutions in the U.S. There were 779 institutions that completed the survey.[3]


1 Surveys Online is a product of Peerfocus.

2 See the Staff Survey Participation and Information Template for a complete list of all professional positions surveyed, instructions to participants, and more information on how data were collected.

3 Special focus institutions include medical institutions, law institutions, art design schools, tribal colleges, and others. Institutions not classified include international institutions, higher ed affiliates, and any other institution not listed with a basic Carnegie classification. Higher ed affiliates include research foundations, research laboratories, preparatory academies, and other institutions that CUPA-HR has deemed to have similar enough workforces to higher ed institutions that they may participate in CUPA-HR surveys and benchmark their positions using CUPA-HR data. For-profit institutions, higher ed affiliates, and non-classified institutions are generally not included in overall analyses of CUPA-HR data unless otherwise specified.