Professors Salaries May Not Measure Teaching Quality

During the university’s spring break, a Reddit user posted how much NJIT Faculty members earn per department, without any added benefits, from an open records resource. Some questioned how a professor who seemed to do so little managed to earn so much, while others lamented over their favorite professors making less than what they originally assumed.

NJIT was first thrown into the spotlight last May when NJ.com released an article about President Joel S. Bloom’s annual salary being $555k  with a contract price of over $5 million, including his benefits. A few months later, the Princeton Review named NJIT as having the worst professors , according to a survey it sent out to students and college customers ; however, the audience who completed the survey may have provided bias .

Emily Cort, a second-year mechanical engineering major, thinks NJIT does not deserve the title of university with the worst professors, “I don’t think NJIT deserves that label, but they really need to look into some of the professors they have here and how they’re treating students and what resources they’re not providing to the students.”

When analyzing faculty members’ salaries with regards to their Rate My Professor (RMP) ratings (overall quality and difficulty), results can be broken up into segments ‒ just as faculty member positions range from university lecturers to associate professor to assistant professor to professor to distinguished professor.

Faculty members who are paid above $100k are usually of professor or distinguished professor status, except for a few cases. These individuals can teach higher-level classes that are often more difficult than introductory level ones. As a result, students may experience more difficulty with classes of this nature and blame their struggles on their professors.

This may explain the dip in quality after the $85k-$110k income class until it spikes back up at the $185-$210k mark and then drops once again. In addition, faculty members with the highest salaries (on average) belong to the Electrical Engineering Department, which is also the department with the greatest downward trend in Overall Quality (O.Q) with increasing salary.

Vice versa, faculty members who are paid below $60k are usually university lecturers or associate professors who teach lower-level courses and General University Requirements (GURs). These classes tend to be intro-level classes that students mostly have positive experiences with due to the reported ease of the classes themselves .

This may be why faculty members, usually university lecturers, assistant professors, and professors earning $35k-$60k have the highest O.Q. average at 3.875 out of 5. The department with the lowest paid faculty members is the Humanities Department, with half of the professors’ salaries under $60k.

As a polytechnic university, NJIT has a small population of students majoring in the liberal arts; the department itself does not offer a plethora of classes like other departments do. Most of the humanities courses taken by students serve the purpose of fulfilling GURs only. The classes themselves are geared towards preparing students for STEM careers.

Lauren Rose, a fifth-year architecture major, when asked if professors are paid too much or too little responded, “I’m biased, because my mother and sisters are teachers. I firmly believe that all teachers are underpaid for the amount of work that goes into their jobs.”

Anne Marie Lim, a first-year mechanical engineering major, is satisfied with her professors so far, “Most of my professors seem to be making an active effort to make sure everyone succeeds. I don’t have much authority to say how much each professor should be paid, but it [pay] should be altered to better reflect teaching quality.”

Although NJIT faculty members’ salaries are available as public records, many faculty members run research labs, are entrepreneurs, and even write published books. The income from these other endeavors are not included in the public record, so any assistant professor making $60k may actually be making well over that amount from teaching at other universities, running a business, or any other source of income.

In addition, results (like in the Princeton Review survey) are based on student feedback and may be biased. RMP asks that students “discuss the professor’s professional abilities including teaching style and ability to convey the material clearly”. Although ratings must be approved by the RMP team, they often include inflated or deflated scores for professor ratings and difficulty; these scores are even more extreme especially among students who receive low grades in classes with the respective professors. Even though hundreds of students may enroll in classes with a particular professor, only a few reviews or none at all may be posted for that professor. Despite the extreme bias of RMP ratings, many students use this resource to pick their professors each semester. Ratings may correlate to likability as well as professional ability, to a degree.

Due to the fact that most evaluation criteria are  biased, developing an objective process to determine salary is a favorable idea in the eyes of many students, “If NJIT could figure out a very honest system where based on how effective they are as a teacher, then students would be happier. I have encountered many horrible professors here at NJIT, ones who do not care at all for the students, but I have had some absolutely fantastic professors,” says Cort.

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