To Secure Their Financial Futures, Are Black Scholars Likely to Turn Down Faculty Positions at Universities With Small Endowments?

In recent years, black scholars have been in high demand as colleges and universities competed with each other to diversify their academic work force. But the nation’s prolonged recession may have changed the dynamics.

Let’s assume that a black scholar is fortunate enough to have offers of a tenured faculty position at both Princeton and New York University. In normal times, the black scholar might very well choose to join the faculty at New York University so that he or she would be in New York and be close to black cultural centers.

But these are not ordinary times. Consider the fact that Princeton, which has about 5,000 undergraduate students, has an endowment that is eight times as large as the endowment at New York University. At NYU there are more than four times as many undergraduate students as there are on the Princeton campus.

In these times the black scholar will have to think hard about accepting an offer from a college or university that has a frail endowment.

The scholar must consider the financial security of the educational institution for which he or she chooses to work. Today a scholar must consider if, in a reeling economy, he or she is likely to get anticipated raises in salary and whether the educational institution’s retirement fund will be financially sound in the years ahead. So far in 2009, at least 15 colleges and universities, including the highly regarded Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, have suspended payments into faculty retirement funds.