Faculty salaries at US universities have lagged behind inflation for the third time in four years while salaries paid to presidents, administrators and athletics coaches are soaring, according to a new report.
The report from the American Association of University Professors finds that full professors earn more than three times the US median household income. But the association said that the disparity between academic and administrative staff exposes misplaced priorities.
University officials pointed out that while administrators such as information technology specialists were in high demand, there is a large supply of PhDs.
"It's understandable that some faculty would be troubled by these trends, but they reflect the fiscal realities of the marketplace," said Terry Hartle, senior vice-president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, which represents about 1,800 universities and colleges.
"If you want an IT director, you'll have to pay the market price. If you want an English professor, you can get one for less money," Dr Hartle said.
The AAUP's statistics show that full, associate and assistant professors all got raises at or above the inflation rate.
But survey author Saranna Thornton, a professor of economics at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, said that when instructors and lecturers are added in, the average annual increase falls to 3.8 per cent, compared with an inflation rate of 4.1 per cent.
The average annual salary for a full professor at a doctoral institution rose to $148,214 (£75,216), and for an associate professor to $102,888. Full professors make an average of $129,976, and associate professors $94,191. The median US household income is $48,201.
The AAUP said that presidential salary increases were more than six times greater than faculty salary increases. More than 80 presidents of private universities now earn more than $500,000 a year.
Meanwhile, university basketball and football coaches in the highest-ranked athletic programmes earn an average of more than $1 million, a 12.4 per cent increase over last year. The average university head football coach now earns ten times more than the average university professor.
"We're asking what the priorities should be. The answer, we feel, is that the priorities should be on teaching and research," said John Curtis, the AAUP's director of research and public policy.
The AAUP also complained about the quadrupling in the number of full-time administrators at universities between 1976 and 2005.