Knox faculty are among the lowest paid in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), which consists of 14 colleges, according to data from the AAUP Compensation Survey.
The average salary for a full professor in the ACM is $93,967/year, well above the average salary for a full professor at Knox of $85,700/year. For associate professors, the ACM average salary is $78,050/year and the Knox salary is $64,300/year.
President Teresa Amott makes the fifth lowest salary in the ACM as of the 2016-17 school year, according to 990 forms The Knox Student accessed via ProPublica. Her salary of $297,843/year sits well below the average ACM presidential salary of $392,318/year.
Provost Kai Campbell says that it is clear to the administration that faculty salaries are of great importance and concern.
“We know that we are in a state where there is some pressure on us to be more competitive in our salaries,” he said.
According to Campbell, Knox compares itself to similar liberal arts educations both in the region and other parts of the country when looking at their salaries. However, there are several financial differences when comparing Knox to other ACM institutions.
For example, Knox’s nets assets and fund balances at the end of the 2016-17 school year were approximately $166 million according to the 990 form. Meanwhile, Grinnell and Carleton ended the year with $2 billion and $1.13 billion, respectively.
That explains how Grinnell College and Carleton University pay their full professors an average of $141,300 and $138,100/year.
“We’re able to do pretty remarkable things here but we do not have the resources that other schools have. We just don’t,” Amott told TKS in a phone interview. “What we do with the money we have is pretty remarkable.”
Schools like Grinnell and Carleton are what is called “endowment-driven.” Most schools pull 4 to 5 percent of their endowment each year to add to their operating funds. With a $2 billion endowment, Grinnell can afford to add about $100 million to their operating funds.
Knox, on the other hand, is tuition-driven, but the vast majority of students at Knox do not pay full price. The average net tuition paid by a Knox student is $17,000, Director of Admissions Paul Steenis told TKS.
According to Provost Kai Campbell, a system has been in place at Knox for quite some time that increases each level of professor’s salaries by a certain dollar amount of every year. This is what’s known as an equity-driven or “step” system, rather than a merit-based one.
Knox does, however, have some merit-based raises that are given out occasionally to faculty, as decided by the dean and the faculty personnel committee.
“It’s a form of salary determination that is often used at schools that have a commitment to a kind of egalitarian culture,” Amott said.
There has only been one pay freeze in recent years, which occurred two years ago. That means that nobody took a raise, including members of the administration.
The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) is planning on releasing a “Red Light” zine exploring the pay of faculty at Knox College this week. The YDSA spoke to four professors for their zine, and will publish some of their thoughts and opinions alongside the data. Sophomore Avi Bottger says that speaking to the professors and working with the data was enlightening.
“I knew our professors didn’t get paid a lot of money, and that’s something that became very clear while we were working on the financial issues,” they said.
Bottger also said that most professors have specific reasons to stay at Knox such as the community and personality, and that it might be harder to get tenure at other schools.
Campbell said that what’s different about Knox from other schools he’s been at is “the tremendous amount of dedication people have to fulfilling the mission.”
He hopes the salaries can adequately reflect that.