The salary of an MSU professor may seem lofty when compared to the average American’s income. However, chances are most MSU professors could be making substantially more money in a different state. Both professors and other employees in Montana earn much lower salaries than their counterparts in other states. In 2014 Montana workers were paid an average of $38,875 in wages, making Montana the 47th highest paying state out of the 50 states. Montanans earned 77 cents for each dollar the average American made that year.
Montana State faces challenges when competing with higher-paying universities for the talented faculty that bring prestige to MSU. However, many professors could be earning tens of thousands more teaching at other universities. In 2007, the average salary for a professor at MSU was $79,998, compared to the national average that year of $104,120. Since 2007 MSU has been increasing its salaries in the range of 1-3.6 percent each year. However, in that time the national average salary has also risen. President Waded Cruzado, the highest paid professional at MSU, makes $303,144, only 67 percent of the $452,370 national average.
So, how does MSU keep accomplished and passionate university personnel in Montana when they could make more money elsewhere? Some professors leave to pursue more economically appealing positions elsewhere. However, MSU provides incentives to its employees beyond what it can strictly pay them. Cruzado, for example, has a $9,600 yearly car allowance. The MSU Alumni Foundation also came up with a $500,000 incentive package towards Cruzado’s retirement after five years, with an additional $500,000 for staying an additional five years.
However, not all professors and faculty at MSU receive such attractive incentives. But, there are benefits MSU can boast, namely living and working in Bozeman. It’s nontrivial that many professors have a much shorter commute than other university professors across the country. That accounts for savings in time and money that would be put towards gas. Additionally Montana ranked 22nd in States with the lowest cost of living. Although the cost of living in Bozeman is slightly above the national average, it remains much lower than in many places where professors get paid more, such as New York City.
Lastly, many faculty and staff members came to Bozeman to stay in the place they love and to enjoy the quality of life that only Montana can offer. Ryan Anderson, a professor in the department of biological and chemical engineering, said he came to MSU and won’t leave “because of MSU and Bozeman and the quality of life that we do get. There aren’t any other universities that I’ve seen around here with the same access to biking and skiing, a nice place to raise your family, without insane costs, so that’s really gone a long ways for me.”