Ranked fifteenth in Forbes' America's Top Colleges list last month, the University amassed another top national spot this week.
On average, the University pays its professors $180,200 annually, the ninth most of any undergraduate university that engaged in “high research activity," according to a study conducted by the American Association of University Professors. Duke professors are compensated more highly than those at institutions such as Georgetown University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“[The study] is an indicator that Duke is attracting and has some of the best faculty in the country,” said Jerry Reiter, Trinity '92, Mrs. Alexander Hehmeyer Professor of statistical sciences and chair of the Faculty Compensation Committee, which tracks demographic trends in faculty compensation.
Lori Leachman, professor of the practice of economics, said it was appropriate that at a top ranked university, professors are paid highly.
“Our salaries are very competitive,” said Provost Peter Lange. “If you look at the list, all of the schools above us have substantially higher cost of living.”
The study further found that the University, on average, paid its associate professors the sixth-most nationally and its assistant professors the thirteenth-most.
The survey used data from 1,142 institutions submitted for the 2012-13 academic year, and reflect the earnings of full-time instructional and research stuff whose main role is instruction.
Some expressed concerns that using an average may be an imprecise method.
“As an average, [the numbers are] probably skewed in favor of the private universities because of the small number of highly paid faculty members," said Patrick Conway, professor and department chair of economics at UNC.
Lange urged that the numbers be taken with a grain of salt as different department sizes may distort the average salary figure.
“The average by rank and gender is the most accurate measure possible without having data for each individual faculty member,” wrote John Curtis, director of the department of research and public policy at the AAUP, in an email Wednesday.
He noted that the average values can, however, be skewed by large outliers but expressed confidence in the findings. Curtis added that the study underwent a series of validations prior to release.
Regardless of the methods used in the study, Conway said the study bodes well for the University.
“When you are able to pay higher, you are able to attract a higher quality individual," he said.
Lange emphasized that compensations are not limited to the average, either.
“Competitiveness gets measured case by case,” Lange said. "[Compensation] depends an awful lot on what [professors] are bringing to the situation.”
Reiter is content with what the findings mean for the University's national standing.
“This is a good thing that this is where we are at at Duke—we are...retaining the very best," Reiter said.