Criticisms of Pope Salary Study Unfounded, Author Says

Criticisms of Pope Salary Study Unfounded, Author Says
The Pope Center’s study of faculty salaries has come under criticism from the Economics Dept. at UNC-Chapel Hill. Department Chair David K. Guilkey criticized the study in a recent letter to The News & Observer of Raleigh. Guilkey also announced that his department would release its own rankings of faculty compensation on October 15 on its website (

Guilkey criticized the approach used by the Pope Center for using cost-of-living data for the Triangle (significant because the cost of living is higher in Chapel Hill than in Raleigh or Durham) and for comparing institutions by salary instead of by total compensation. He said his department’s rankings ranked UNC-CH lower in salary and compensation than the Pope Center study did.

Jon Sanders, the director of publications at the Pope Center who conducted the study, said he used the Triangle-wide data because many professors at UNC-Chapel Hill live outside Chapel Hill but in the Triangle, including Raleigh and Durham. “This is an issue I thought I had put to bed in 1996 after publishing a similar study that received the same criticism from Chapel Hill (and to which I gave the same response),” Sanders said. “I argued for a Triangle-wide index because the university’s faculty and staff live all across the Triangle, not just in Chapel Hill.” Sanders cited a letter dated Sept. 26, 1996, from the late Chancellor Michael Hooker, who said, “A Triangle-wide cost-of-living index would be of significant value in constructing real comparisons with institutions in other metropolitan areas.”

Sanders also ran rankings of faculty compensation according to the cost of living of each university, acting on Guilkey’s suggestion. He found that in compensation, UNC-CH ranked 27th overall (down from 20th in salaries) and 12th among public Research I universities (down from 5th in salaries). In other words, UNC-CH slipped only a little in the rankings.

In his letter, Guilkey called UNC-CH’s compensation “uncompetitive” and warned that they would lead to UNC-CH losing “many of our most productive scholars.” Sanders said he had serious questions about the validity of those claims. “Surely if there were a brain drain from UNC-CH owing to uncompetitive salaries, it could be measurable,” he said. “But despite years of being asked for proof of salaries causing an emigration of talent from UNC-CH, the university has still not provided any evidence of it.”

Few Gain From GED

GEDs (General Educational Development certificates acquired by passing a high school equivalency exam) are only marginally useful in improving the earnings of high school dropouts, according to a study by Richard J. Murnane and John H. Tyler of the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study compared the subsequent wages of young men who had dropped out of high school with their earlier performance on tests measuring cognitive skills (reading, writing, math) taken when they were 10th graders. They found that dropouts with high intelligence test scores earned about the same regardless of whether they had a GED. For dropouts with low intelligence test scores, a GED increased earnings by about 50 percent. But in all cases, dropouts with or without GEDs still earn less than their counterparts who graduated from high school.

CLARIFICATION: Last week, Clarion Call reported that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will use $28.6 million in unrestricted grants (a gift from 1949 UNC-CH graduate David B. Clayton) to fund “high priority” projects at ÜNC-CH. The interest income from the endowment will be used to fund such “high priority projects,” which adds to $1.4 million per year.