Pay is main reason higher ed employees consider leaving jobs


Employees in all types of industries and sectors are mulling over whether they like their jobs and if they want to find something new. Workers in higher education are no different.

New research from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) shows that many staff, professionals and administrators at public and private colleges and universities are considering other job opportunities due to dissatisfaction with pay, opportunities for advancement, institutions’ remote and flexible work policies, and more.

Overall, nearly two-thirds (62%) of higher ed employees indicated in a survey that they are satisfied with their job. Approximately the same percentage (66%) would recommend their department as a place to work, and a slightly smaller percentage (60%) would recommend their institution, the report says. However, more than one-fifth (22%) of employees are not satisfied with their jobs.

When comparing these results by types of institutions, higher ed employees in baccalaureate institutions perceive their work environment most favorably, whereas those in associate institutions perceive their work environment least favorably. Those in private institutions had more positive responses than those in public institutions.

CUPA-HR analyzed data from 3,815 higher ed employees at 949 institutions (including 183 public, associate-degree-granting institutions) and across 15 departments/functional areas. It conducted the survey in May.

Money, remote work policies

Although there are myriad reasons higher ed workers are considering a job switch, money is the main reason, according to the findings. More than half (57%) of the higher ed workforce is at least somewhat likely to look for other employment opportunities in the next 12 months, the report says. The most common reason for seeking something else (provided by three-fourths of those likely to look for another job) is an increase in pay.

Aside from pay, employees also appear to be frustrated with remote work options. Nearly three-fourths (71%) of employees report that they can do most of their duties remotely, and 69% would prefer to have at least a partially remote work arrangement, yet 63% are working mostly or completely on-site.

Employees also may feel like they are burning out, as they report working longer hours and taking on more responsibilities. Two-thirds (67%) of full-time staff typically work more hours each week than what is considered full-time, the report says. Nearly two-thirds (63%) have taken on additional responsibilities of other staff who have recently left, and nearly three-fourths (73%) have taken on additional responsibilities as a direct result of the pandemic.

Some good signs

The report notes there are areas employees appear to be satisfied with, including benefits, relationship with supervisor, job duties and feeling a sense of belonging. They overwhelmingly agree (81%) they have a good relationship with their supervisor, which research shows is positively associated with job satisfaction, the report says. Further, more than three-fourths (77%) feel their work has purpose. In addition, about two-thirds of employees agree they are valued by others at work (67%), feel they can bring up problems and tough issues at work (65%), and feel a sense of belonging (64%).

But there are also areas that employees are dissatisfied with, including investment in career development, opportunities for advancement, fair pay, remote work policies and parental leave. Nearly half (46%) of higher ed employees disagree they have opportunities for advancement, and a similar percentage disagree they are paid fairly (45%). Thirty-nine percent disagree that the institution is invested in their career development, and one-fourth (24%) disagree that they are recognized for their contributions.

Benefits that have become more salient since the pandemic — childcare discounts or subsidies, remote work policies, schedule flexibility and parental leave policies — received the highest levels of dissatisfaction, CUPA-HR says.

“This is noteworthy when one considers the research showing that women were disproportionately burdened with unpaid childcare, eldercare, and other home responsibilities during the years of the pandemic, resulting in promotion, pay, and morale gaps that continue,” it says in the report.

Types of institutions

The report also breaks down some of its findings by type of institution. For example, 46% of doctoral institution employees are satisfied with their institution’s remote work policies, compared with 35% of associate, 36% of baccalaureate and 32% of master’s institution employees. Similarly, higher levels of satisfaction with parental leave policies are reported at doctoral institutions (46%) than at associate (33%), baccalaureate (41%) or master’s (35%) institutions.

In regard to childcare discounts/subsidies, only 9% of associate institution employees reported they were satisfied or very satisfied. Private religious institutions reported the greatest level of satisfaction with childcare discounts/subsidies (24%), though CUPA-HR noted that is still a very low level of satisfaction.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.