When you look at the many glamorous careers available, becoming a tenure-track professor is not often mentioned. With non-tenure-track faculty now accounting for nearly 70 percent of all faculty members, and three out of four hires nationally are off the tenure track, it is a difficult position to pursue. Compounding the issue are limited resources and the significant pressure to publish, why would one want to pursue a career in academia? Given that one of the 16 key factors of job compatibility is the amount of perks offered to employees, what does one necessarily receive as a college professor?
THE PERK THAT REALLY ISN’T A PERK
The most common refrain I hear from friends and relatives unfamiliar with the job requirements of academic life is the copious amounts of “time off” we receive between semesters, as well as in the summer. However, given the “publish or perish” dictum, that particular time is often dedicated to scholarly pursuits that cannot be completed during the academic year. Further, many use that time to teach classes to supplement one’s salary.
THE “REAL” PERKS
The most significant perk many professors receive (depending on the institution) is a tuition waiver at their place of employment for employees, spouses, and their dependents. The tuition waiver will cover up to the cost of tuition minus any federal and/or state grant or scholarship received by the student. Also, our institution is a member of two tuition exchange programs the provide reciprocal scholarship opportunities for the dependents of eligible faculty and staff at over 650 member schools.
When I started my career 20 years ago, it was not uncommon to arrive at the office and have a box full of textbooks for review sent by a publisher awaiting me. Today, the textbook perk is diminished somewhat by publishers facing significant costs of printing, as well as a lucrative secondary textbook market for those “Instructor editions” that go unused. As a result, you can still get free textbooks. However, they are more likely going to give you access to an online edition until you adopt the text for your course.
Faculty (and students) can purchase new computers from Apple, Dell, or HP at an educator discount. Also, due to licensing agreements, faculty can use the latest edition of Microsoft Office for free. Our school also offers an application that provides an interest-free loan for half the purchase price of the computer and components, with a $1500 maximum. Payroll deduction repayment is based on equal payments over a two-year period.
Faculty are eligible for paid sabbaticals every seven years. Sabbaticals are intended to enhance professional expertise, skills, and knowledge; provide professional growth and development; complete special projects; conduct professional work; stay current with evolving workplace needs; etc. Sabbatical experiences could include research and study related to professional and intellectual renewal or development (e.g. writing projects, original research, literature review, etc.).
A PERK UNIQUE TO US
As a member of the institution, we received three free meals at the college cafeteria per semester. Why three? Why not two? Or four? Or more? It remains a mystery, but the faculty does appreciate their free meals. Yet would more free meals be enough to get a professor to jump ship from one university to join another? Probably not.
With tuition costs exceeding tens of thousands of dollars a year, and student loan debt exceeding $1 trillion, the tuition perk is crucial in attracting and retaining quality employees. While the list above is by no means comprehensive, it highlights what many colleges and universities must offer to stand out. What does your workplace offer to attract employees and do you use them?