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By Alex Kuffner May 3, 2012

University of Rhode Island president David Dooley says that average salaries at URI are the second-lowest among New England’s state universities

When Governor Chafee objected to 3-percent raises for faculty at the University of Rhode Island and other state colleges last month, his action raised questions about how much professors are paid for their work.

In an appearance last month on "10 News Conference," URI President David Dooley was asked about the controversy.

"We have to recognize that our salaries for faculty are the lowest in New England with the exception of the University of Maine," he said on the show, which aired April 8. "That’s a competitive disadvantage for us in the national and international hunt for talent. Our students will not be as successful if we don’t have the best and brightest in those classrooms."

We wondered whether URI’s salaries are really that low relative to other public higher education institutions. If they are, Dooley’s contention that the salaries make URI less attractive to prospective faculty members makes sense.

While waiting for the university’s media relations department to get back to us on the source of Dooley’s claim, we searched for information and data.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, a news source about colleges and universities, maintains a salary database on its website based on annual surveys by the American Association of University Professors, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

The AAUP’s most recent survey, for the 2011-12 fiscal year, collected salary information for 1,251 higher education institutions around the country. The survey broke down the average salaries by position: full professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and, where applicable, instructor.

According to the survey, the national average for full professors is $113,176; for associate professors, it’s $78,565; for assistant professors, $66,564; and instructors, $47,847.

At the University of Rhode Island, the average for full professors is $105,200; for associate professors, it’s $78,900; for assistant professors, the number is $65,800; and for instructors, it’s $58,600.

To be clear, in his statement, Dooley was comparing URI with the other flagship state universities in New England. This is a small group that excludes private institutions and smaller public colleges, such as Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.

Besides URI, the list includes the University of Connecticut, the University of Massachusetts system, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Vermont and the University of Maine.

According to the Chronicle database, UConn, the four UMass campuses and the University of Vermont all had higher average salaries for each teaching level than URI. The University of Maine’s average salaries were all lower.

Data for the University of New Hampshire was missing from the 2011-12 survey. A spokeswoman for the AAUP told us UNH did not respond to a request for salary information.

When we called UNH, a spokeswoman said the faculty union may not have provided the information because it’s in the midst of a contract dispute with the university and is working under the terms of an expired contract. Erika Mantz, director of media relations, gave us the current average salaries for UNH faculty.

In summary, these are the average salaries for full professors at each institution in order from highest to lowest: UConn ($139,100), UMass Amherst ($122,600), UMass Lowell ($120,100), UNH ($115,800), UMass Boston ($115,700), UMass Dartmouth ($111,200), the University of Vermont ($113,800), URI ($105,200) and the University of Maine ($95,000).

So URI does indeed rank second from the bottom in the region. And for each of the other categories, it occupies the same place.

When David Lavallee, a spokesman for URI, got back to us, he provided data that the provost’s office took from the 2010-11 AAUP salary survey. We confirmed that in that year, URI also had the second-lowest average salaries in New England.

Our ruling

Dooley said that faculty salaries at URI are the lowest among public universities in New England except for the University of Maine. According to a national survey, he’s correct.

Moreover, although salaries for lower-level faculty at URI are comparable to national averages or better, salaries for full professors are 7 percent lower than the national average.

We rate Dooley’s statement True.

(Get updates from PolitiFactRI on Twitter. To comment or offer your ruling, visit us on our PolitiFact Rhode Island Facebook page.)

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources, "10 News Conference: April 8, 2012," accessed April 12, 2012

The Providence Journal, "Chafee balks at negotiated pay raises at colleges," April 5, 2012, accessed April 26, 2012

The Providence Journal, "URI contract conflict puts Dooley on spot," April 7, 2012, accessed April 26, 2012, "2012 Faculty Salary Survey," The Chronicle of Higher Education, updated April 8, 2012, accessed April 12, 2012, "The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession," American Association of University Professors, accessed April 26, 2012

Interview and emails, David Lavallee, assistant director for communications and marketing, University of Rhode Island, April 26-27, 2012

Emails, Robin Burns, assistant director of media relations, American Association of University Professors, April 27, 2012

Interview and emails, Erika Mantz, director of media relations, University of New Hampshire, April 27-30, 2012

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University of Rhode Island president David Dooley says that average salaries at URI are the second-lowest among New England’s state universities

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