Race to the Bottom Paper 1
CSU's 10-year Failure to Fund its Core Mission

Executive Summary

An extensive body of research has shown the unique and critical role that university faculty play in student success and in the quality of a student’s educational experience.

Despite publicly acknowledging this research and expressing a commitment to implementing its findings, the California State University administration has, for the last 10 years, failed to invest in this important driver of student success.

As this paper shows, the failure to fund faculty salaries is shocking in both its magnitude and its consistency over time. 

Over the past decade—in good times and bad, whether state funding was up or down, when tuition was raised and when it wasn’t—CSU expenditures on faculty salaries have remained essentially flat.

Furthermore, the average CSU faculty salary on every CSU campus actually has lost purchasing power. 

While it might be tempting to attribute these facts to conditions beyond the control of the CSU administration, the facts do not support that conclusion.

When compared to other university systems around the country, and to every education segment in California, the CSU stands out for its unparalleled failure to improve faculty salaries or even to protect them from the ravages of inflation.

As this paper details, administrators at other colleges and universities inside and outside California dealt with similar circumstances, made different decisions, and produced different outcomes. 

Case in point: Over the past 10 years, while the average CSU faculty salary on every campus lost purchasing power, the average University of California faculty salary on each UC campus increased in real dollars.

At UC San Francisco, the average faculty salary from 2004 and 2013 (adjusted for inflation) rose $16,138, while at San Francisco State, the average faculty salary lost $9,748.

This paper serves as a sounding call for new priorities in the CSU based on what we know about the greatest drivers of student success. The university acknowledges the critical role that the faculty play; they must be willing to set the priority and make the investment.