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I'm underpaid compared to my colleagues

24 Jul 2019 11:30 PM | Anonymous

Dear Sophia,

As most of us know, we do not work in the field of higher education to become rich but we should still be able to make a livable wage. I have recently found out I am the third-lowest-paid director on my campus and one of the only ones that is required to be accessible 24/7 for emergencies abroad and at home with our international students.

I do understand there are differences in positions and that some directors have been in their roles longer than me. Taking this into account as well as researching salary data put out by the Chronicle of Higher Education, I feel I am being underpaid. My university is located in an expensive area, and in my estimation I should be making approximately $10,000 more than what I am currently making.

I have brought this to the attention of my supervisor - the fact that I am one of the lowest paid directors and that salaries should take into account the cost of living of the area - and she told me she would look into it but not to expect anything because we have budget issues. I was also told it would be better if I had another job offer in hand because it would give me more leverage.

Given all of this, what should I do in order to ensure I can make a livable wage for all of the work I am being asked to do?


Exhausted on the East Coast

Dear Exhausted,

Have you approached your Human Resources department on this matter? I know at many institutions, if you ask an HR manager, they can do an audit of comparable positions and salaries in the area to see if your pay is on par with your colleagues’.  If your salary is way off from this data, you should have additional negotiating leverage.

The idea of having another job offer in hand does have some merit. Another job offer motivates institutions in ways that a traditional raise request does not. I know that a job search is a lot of additional work (when do you have time time given what is already requested of you?), but it is good experience and allows you to reflect on what you love and don’t love about your current position.

In the meantime, consider how you can improve your negotiation skills.  The League offers webinars and other resources to help members build new skills in this arena.  I would encourage you to continue to strategically build your case about salary negotiation with your supervisor.  Be sure to always frame it within the context of the level of responsibility you have as a Director and provide data (such as salary comparisons) that may bolster your case.

Confidentially yours,



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