At the outset I should say that college teachers do not put as much emphasis on economic status as most members of the working population. They will often stay at one institution or move to another when there are substantial economic disadvantages involved. They do not primarily seek high economic rewards, or they would not have chosen teaching in the first place. Big prizes might attract some who otherwise would not teach but would they be the dedicated researchers and teachers? The college teacher often values the quality of his colleagues and students, time for research, the privilege of seeking the truth without interference, and genuine tenure, a condition for noninterference in the quest for truth, more than his pay scale.
But he must have an adequate income to be free to teach and search without serious financial obstacles. He needs working conditions free of material worries, and a home to entertain students, faculty, and his friends. And since he prizes education so highly, he should have money enough to provide his own children with the best schooling available. Moreover, he does not want to be pitied nor, as Barber has said, does he wish to operate like a monk in a society where the ethos to support the austere life is no longer present.
We cannot disregard competitive issues. If industry or practice (e.g., medical) offers material rewards greatly exceeding those in teaching, the result may be serious losses of potential teachers. Even the California Institute of Technology finds it difficult to compete with an offer to one of its faculty members of $750,000 in stock options as an inducement to join a business firm.
In a statement from Harvard to Harvard alumni of May 18, 1905, the issues were well put. At that time 13 members of the Harvard faculty received $5,000 or more; all professors (57) received an average of $3,980; 38 assistant professors, $2,130; and 88 instructors, $990.