NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — A rite of spring in academia is the annual publication of the salary survey from the American Association of University Professors. The "Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession" is published in the March-April issue of Academe, AAUP's magazine. Data was compiled from 1,157 institutions, whose participation is voluntary.

This year's report, titled "Losing Focus," ranked 1,096 schools according to compensation. Columbia and Stanford were in a near dead heat at the top of the list; the average salary for full professors was $215,500 and $215,200, respectively. Tabor College of Hillsboro, Kansas, ranked last at $43,800, where the cost of living is generally less than in New York City or greater Palo Alto.

Pay at private colleges continues to be higher than at public institutions. On average, full professors at public universities earned $112,897, while their counterparts at private institutions earned $144,770. As in previous years, the top paying public university, UCLA at $173,900, would not crack the private university top ten. Full professors at religiously-affiliated colleges earned $100,326.

Assistant professors at public institutions made $69,100. Assistant professors at private institutions made $76,891, and they earned $62,544 at religiously-affiliated institutions. A total of 19 schools pay six-figure salaries to their assistant profs, with Penn, Stanford and the California Institute of Technology compromising the top three.

On average, faculty salaries rose faster than inflation for the first time in five years. But at some institutions, associate professors have seen their salaries stagnate over the past decade relative to those in higher and lower faculty ranks. Associate professors at publics earned $80,448, while associate professors at privates earned $91,176, and those at religious institutions earned $75,223.

Exactly where is the focus that the report refers to being lost? AAUP found that non-academic job titles were benefiting at the expense of the core academic mission nearly everywhere. When it comes to employment opportunities and pay, especially at the top of the food chain, administrative jobs are where it's at.

Spending on athletic programs continues to rise. But far from being a net revenue generator, the AAUP report also claims that athletic programs for which funds are being ear-marked are not self-sustaining and lose money.

"It has been argued that athletic spending doesn't take funding away from academics, because 'revenue-generating' sports such as football and men's basketball bring in sufficient funds to finance themselves along with other sports teams," the report says. "The evidence, however, shows this assertion to be untrue."

Of more than 1,000 college and university members of the NCAA, just 23 institutions reported that their athletic programs ran a surplus, according to the report. All were Division I-A.

But the AAUP seemed to find the salary hikes for administrative personnel most troubling. "The pattern of substantial salary increases for a very few senior administrators...continues while full-time faculty salaries stagnate," the report says. The report mentioned the multiple problems of hiring and salary freezes, benefit cuts and layoffs.