Our research suggests that WVU faculty are substantially underpaid relative to their colleagues at other institutions, while administrators are substantially overpaid. It also appears that WVU may have a greater number of high-level administrators than is justified by its size.
All averages for faculty and executive pay come from the 2018-19 AAUP Faculty Compensation survey: https://www.aaup.org/2018-19-faculty-compensation-survey-results
Pay for specific WVU administrators come from the WV State Auditor’s public database of public employee pay: http://www.transparencywv.org/TotalComp/EmployeeComp
Averages for deans come from the 2016-17 CUPA-HR survey, the latest publicly available one: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Median-Salaries-of-Deans-by/240501 . These numbers are compared to 2017 pay for WVU deans.
WVU Faculty at every rank are paid less than the national average at doctorate-granting public universities. The gap is largest for the lowest-ranked faculty.
For the three executive positions tracked by the AAUP survey, on the other hand, WVU employees are paid more than the national average. This effect is largest for the WVU President, who is paid 59% more than the national average for doctorate-granting public universities.
It is quite difficult to get national data on different types of administrative positions. CUPA-HR until recently made public pay figures from a survey of deans at around 1200 public and private institutions. These data are not disaggregated by public vs. private status, so comparing WVU salaries to these figures would amount to equating WVU with, for instance, Harvard or Stanford. The AAUP data suggest instead that public university faculty at ranks below professor are paid about 80% as much as their private-university counterparts, and executives at public universities are paid 65-80% as much as their private-university counterparts. The table below compares 2017 salaries for all deans listed on the WVU website with (1) the CUPA-HR national average for doctorate-granting institutions, including private ones, and (2) a conservatively adjusted estimate for public universities, based on a model in which public-school deans are paid 80% as much as private-school ones, which is at the upper range of public salaries attested in the AAUP survey. In cases where the WVU website identified an interim or acting dean, the salary of the person who was dean in 2017 was used instead. One WVU position, Dean of College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, was not present in the national survey and is excluded here.
The results suggest that most WVU deans are paid more than deans at other doctorate-granting public universities. That said, these comparisons are based on an inference from public-private asymmetries for other academic positions, and as such are somewhat uncertain.
Staffing and priorities
As of 2019, the WVU ‘University Leaders’ webpage lists 19 deans and 17 other executives, not including the president. Below we compare this to flagship public universities from neighboring states, as well as Nebraska, the state with the closest population to West Virginia’s. We also compare student enrollment and faculty size. All data are drawn from the websites of the relevant universities. Note that different schools aggregate and report these data in slightly different ways, so there is some uncertainty associated with these figures, particularly the number of executives listed on ‘leadership’ pages. Some of these universities are similar in size to WVU (e.g. Kentucky, Virginia), while others are much larger (e.g. Ohio State, Penn State).
Results here are a bit difficult to interpret. It looks like the number of high level executives and deans is roughly constant at universities in the region, with little relationship to the size of the institution. At Nebraska, however, there are substantially fewer deans and executives. WVU does tend to have more deans than similarly sized schools (Kentucky is an exception), and as many or more deans than much larger schools.
The data presented above show that WVU underpays its faculty while overpaying high-level administrators. The situation is less clear for deans, in part because there is less quality publicly available national data. But a conservative model of public-private pay gaps suggests that many deans at WVU are also relatively overpaid. With regard to the number of high-level administrators and deans, WVU seems to be in the middle of the pack compared to peer institutions, although it should be noted that it has roughly as many deans and executives as some much larger universities.
We take these facts, especially the findings on faculty vs. executive pay, to indicate that the financial priorities of the University are not in line with more successful public institutions. To be clear, administrative overpay is arguably a problem at all American universities, public or private; while this analysis takes national averages as a baseline for comparison, we do not believe those national averages are themselves just or justified. Independent of such considerations, these data show that WVU is particularly bad on this point, even compared to other universities. This is unsurprising, as standard operating procedures at WVU involve little meaningful faculty input into personnel and compensation decisions. This is part of a broad lack of meaningful shared governance at the university, and it’s one of the principle reasons why we have formed an AAUP chapter here. We hope that you will join our chapter, and join us in publicizing these facts about the priorities of WVU.