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Special Report Professional Pay in Higher Education

Faculty, staff and graduate assistants should be fairly compensated for their work. But a new study shows pay is lacking, especially for contingent faculty and graduate assistants.

For decades, the pay earned by tenured and tenure-track higher ed faculty has failed to keep pace with the rising cost of living—and the situation is far worse for contingent faculty. Too many higher-education employees, including academic staff and support professionals, struggle to pay their bills.

A new study based on data from the 2019-2020 academic year shows this alarming trend continues, with graduate assistants and educators who work at HBCUs particularly affected. The good news: our research shows that faculty who have a union receive higher pay and tend to face less workplace discrimination.

One thing is clear: It’s time to join your local and state affiliates in fighting for fair pay for the faculty and staff whose work is vital to the mission of their institutions and integral to the wellbeing of our nation.


The HBCU Penalty and the Gender Gap

The latest NEA report on full-time faculty pay shows where faculty get paid best — and worst. Get the key takeaways.


Download and share these high-level summaries of this year's report.
VEA sign

The Union Difference

Research shows that unionized faculties are paid more, face less discrimination.
Educators wearing masks

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Pay for Graduate Employees

The graduate employee dilemma: Pay for food this month, or my medical bills?
Quarangle at Howard University

The HBCU Salary Gap

Faculty who choose to teach at HBCUs pay a penalty for their dedication.
2021 Higher Ed Special Salary Issue cover

The Calm Before COVID: The Last Look at Faculty Salaries Before the Tumultuous Pandemic

Our deep dive into faculty pay explores the state of faculty compensation in 2019-20, before and after COVID-19.

Member Voices

NEA members share their experiences fighting for fair pay
Loretta Ragsdell

Loretta Ragsdell, City Colleges of Chicago

"In response to the unfair treatment I and other members experienced ... I turned to the union’s leadership for help."

Elizabeth Davenport, Alabama State University

"Everyone on my wing has joined the union, and in September I became chair of the Faculty Senate."

We pledge to demand a full investment in higher education, while rejecting austerity measures that undermine student success.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.