The gap between pay for faculty and staff and the salaries of college presidents in Mississippi is widening, according to data analyzed by Mississippi Today. 

While the average faculty and staff member at the state’s eight public universities have barely seen their pay, in nominal dollars, increase since the 2012-13 school year, the average salary for presidents has shot up by more than $150,000.

Several factors are driving this trend: In Mississippi, private university foundations supplement presidential pay, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, while faculty and staff salaries are generally more dependent on legislative appropriations. As the state funding for the Institutions of Higher Learning has not recovered from the Great Recession, pay for faculty and staff has struggled to keep pace with inflation. 

The respective presidents of University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University now make $850,000 a year, $400,000 of which comes from the schools’ private foundations. That’s about double the supplemental salary the presidents in 2008 received, according to records Mississippi Today obtained last year. According to that same data, USM’s Foundation paid its president $125,000 in 2008; it now pays recently appointed Joe Paul $200,000.

Foundation supplements used to comprise a significant chunk of presidential salaries at Mississippi's other public universities, too, but this year, IHL limited the additional amount that presidents at four out of the five schools can receive in foundation supplements to $5,000. 

The Board of Trustees increased the state-funded salary for all five presidents in this group, who had previously been making varying amounts, to $300,000. 

If the average faculty salary in Mississippi in 2012 – $58,896 – had increased with inflation, it would have been about $66,300 in 2020, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, about $475 more than the average faculty actually made, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). 

That shows the raises IHL has procured for faculty since 2012 — including this past year —don’t result in more money in pockets on average or even keep pace with buying power. 

For staff, the average salary in Mississippi – $47,612 – is actually a little more than $1,000 over the inflation-adjusted salary for 2012 ($46,234.89).

This analysis does not take into account variations in occupation or seniority among staff or faculty tenure status, both of which can contribute to vast differences in salaries. At the University of Mississippi, the average tenured professor made far more than the average salary – about $115,000 during the 2020-21 school year, according to IPEDS. (The salary data from IPEDS includes the University of Mississippi Medical Center.)

Through a public records request last year, Mississippi Today obtained salary data for the presidents at all eight public universities going back to 2008. We've updated that data to include the raises that IHL granted this year in the searchable table below.

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Molly Minta, a Florida native, covers higher education for Mississippi Today. She works in partnership with Open Campus, a nonprofit news organization focused on higher education. Prior to joining Mississippi Today, Molly worked for The Nation, The Appeal, and Mother Jones.