The Tufts administration’s gradual “thaw” of the university’s two−year old flexible hiring freeze has brought on 30 new faculty members and is a strategic move in a time of economic recession. Emerging from the economic crisis in an advantageous position relative to that of other universities, Tufts has been able to offer competitive salaries and benefits which have attracted professors from around the country. While budget constraints have forced the university to put projects such as renovating athletic facilities or providing need−blind admissions to incoming students on hold, bringing some of the nation’s best and brightest professors to campus is a worthy investment in the education of current and future Jumbos.
While Tufts has been lucky to have the opportunity to bring on many highly qualified faculty members in the face of budget constraints, nationally many universities are struggling to retain or hire new professors. Almost a third of college faculty took a pay cut in 2009 and 2010 in contrast to previous years in which professors’ pay increased at a rate of 4 percent annually according to a report that the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources released in March.
This will likely have a negative impact on the quality of higher education in the United States, and it is especially worrisome given that the higher education sector tends to take longer to recover from the effects of an economic recession when compared to other industries, according to American Association of University Professors Director of Research and Public Policy John W. Curtis.
Interestingly, at the same time that faculty salaries have declined nationally, the compensation packages for university presidents have been steadily growing year−on−year. This is an outrage to students and parents, especially at public universities, which have been forced to raise tuition costs, let faculty go and eliminate courses due to high budget cuts. It seems that many universities have not chosen to allocate their budgets in the best possible way to ensure the retention and continued hiring of qualified professors — one of the most important investments a university can make.
The inability of universities to hire enough qualified faculty members will make it difficult for them to continue to provide students with quality higher education and may reduce the United States’ economic competitiveness in the long run. If American students are forced to graduate without the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive global job market, America’s economic woes may even be prolonged.
All this serves as further evidence that Tufts has made the right decision in using its limited budget to attract and hire highly regarded professors to the Hill. While it is unfortunate that this has diverted funds from other projects at the university, maintaining or even improving the quality of education at Tufts will help to sustain the future competitiveness of the university and its graduates.