Fred Thys ’80 reports for WBUR about the cost of Williams College. Fred is a knowledgeable and sympathetic alum but this story painted an incomplete picture. Perhaps later stories will flesh out the scene? In the meantime, let’s spend 10 (!) days dissecting this article! Today is Day 4.

Two years ago, the average salary for a full professor at Williams was $137,000 a year, which puts it among the best-paying 3 percent of all colleges. And it’s a 47 percent increase over 12 years.

This is highly misleading because salary is not the same thing as total compensation. If I pay you a $90,000 salary and provide $90,000 in retirement benefits (401k, et cetera) then you, correctly, figure that this job is much better paid than one with a $100,000 salary and no other benefits. Here (pdf) is the latest compensation data for Williams.

Full professors at Williams earn an average total compensation of $183,800.

It is hard to have an honest discussion about the costs of running Williams if WBUR won’t even report accurate compensation numbers.

Kudos, however, to Thys for noting how incredibly well-paid Williams professors are in comparison with their peer group. Williams spends lavishly, so much so that, were every Williams professor to retire tomorrow, we could restaff the College almost instantly with a faculty that was every bit as good as the one we have now.

Of course, the fact that the College has such a strong bargaining position does not mean that it should abuse our current, much beloved, faculty. And tenure makes abuse hard. But we need to understand the actual supply/demand realities of the academic job market in order to fairly evaluate the costs of running Williams.

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