The Pulse of Higher Ed

Perspectives on Online and Professional Education
from UPCEA’s Research and Consulting Experts

How Much Are UPCEA Leaders Paid?

Over the past four years, the higher education landscape has changed significantly as many institutions either added to their online degree portfolios in the form of professional master’s degrees or joined the movement to bring their traditionally campus-based programs online.  Some have extended their already online expertise by developing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or complete MOOC degrees.  Others have further diversified their program portfolios by following anticipated generational needs and preferences by investing in alternative credentials such as badges and certificates.  To navigate change, institutions require experienced leadership in many critical positions, including senior administration of the professional, continuing, and online (PCO) education unit; online program management; instructional design; finance and administration; corporate relations; marketing and others.

To validate the importance of leadership and measure financial commitment to staffing, UPCEA recently surveyed its membership.  Comparing the 2018 findings to the 2014 results, the average salary of the top administrator remained largely unchanged.  In 2014, the average salary for the top PCO leader was $153,188 and in 2018, it was $158,832.  Further breakouts did show the title of “Dean,” “Associate or Vice Provost,” or “Vice President” titles increased slightly during the four-year span while director titles remained the same.

The average salary of the top administrator in each department went up overall from 2014, with the exception of the top administrator in the executive/professional education department (which went down slightly).  This finding is not surprising as many business schools are struggling to reposition not only their MBA programs, but their noncredit executive education programs.  Some have even shifted what was once a noncredit, open-enrollment, intensive executive education model into fully online programs, hybrid/low residency graduate degrees or post-baccalaureate certificate programs. 

Over the years, higher education has also seen greater urgency with improving its connections and relationships with the workforce and community.  As a result, the average salary for the top corporate training/partnership administrator increased the most (17%), particularly for larger (26%), public (20%) and/or urban institutions (14%).

Given the growth in online, the average salary of the online/distance learning top administrator had the second highest increase (14%), especially among medium-sized (34%) and smaller institutions (23%), and for urban institutions (15%).

When accounting for a change in the average cost of living[1], the average salary for the top corporate training/partnership administrator and the top online/distance learning administrator still saw significant increases, though several top department administrators saw their real wages decrease if compared to cost of living indices.  However, as a percentage, wage increases in the college and university education sector lagged behind workers’ categories overall.

Click here to read the full report.


[1] CPI data was gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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