When I first started teaching, the expectation was that my salary would gradually increase at a rate that at least matched the cost of living increase. After all, if everything costs more, then my services would seem to fall under that. Also, if my salary were not increased to match this, then my salary would be less, although the number would remain the same.
I did get a few increases here and there, mainly from promotions. However, cost of living increases have been non-existent. There have been some bonuses, but these are taxed at 35%, so they amount to very little and have been one shot deals. Not surprisingly, my insurance costs have increased, thus lowering my take home pay. Recently, the “Tea Party” “war” on state employees and education resulted in a 3% cut in my take home pay and a loss of my summer class. As such, I actually will make significantly less this year than last year. In fact, I can expect that my effective salary will be reduced with every passing year.
At the same time, enrollment has increased at my university. Since new hiring is out of the question, the remaining faculty are expected to handle this. For example, my Introduction to Philosophy class used to cap at 35. Last year it capped at 60 and this year I have over 70 students at last count. My other classes have 36, 36 and 46 students. I have no minions-so all teaching and grading falls on me. Despite having so many students, my classes only count as 80% of my workload-so I also have additional duties including being the unit facilitator, chairing a search committee, advising, publishing, serving on a major university committee, and so on. Naturally, last Spring I was forced to defend the productivity of myself and my unit (whose classes are always overloaded) to avoid being cut in order to save money. We are, as you might guess, supposed to be grateful to be employed. After all, faculty and staff have been fired and it seems likely that more people will be on the chopping block in the next rounds of cuts. Education is a favorite target.
However, it is not the pay that keeps me working in education. As foolish as it might sound, I am a believer in the value of education and believe that members of a good society should make sacrifices for the general good. I could, obviously, make far more money in private industry. However, I get a more important return on my efforts than mere money, namely being able to help people improve. Obviously, I should have my values and my head examined.
As you might imagine, when I hear people argue that we need to cut the budget so we can lower the taxes on the job creators, because people will not be motivated if they are over taxed, I think about people in situations similar to mine. After all, if the job creators will be broken in spirit by a minor tax increase, one can only imagine what the salary situation is doing to educators. Of course, we are presumed to be valueless parasites on the system who only serve to educate the very people who will be creating and occupying jobs. Obviously, the research that we do is also without significant value, and the prestige of the American university system that draws students from around the world has no value whatsoever. Needless to say, bright and talented people should be encouraged to not go into teaching-rather they should focus on what clearly truly matters-racking up more money than one could possibly spend in a meaningful way. What could possibly go wrong with 1) creating intense dissatisfaction among current educators and 2) discouraging people from becoming educators in the future? After all, what matters is ensuring that the job creators hold on to every possible cent.