"Over the course of a number of these annual reports, we've been making the case that the real issue is priorities," Curtis said. "Full-time faculty salaries have been stagnant, and an increasing proportion of instruction is being shifted to part-time faculty members who are poorly paid, not provided with benefits, and not provided with the support they need to do the jobs they are capable of."
As a result, he said, the proportion of higher-education spending that goes to instruction has been declining.
So what's driving tuition hikes?
Tuition prices have been rising, in part, because state funding is providing a smaller proportion of revenues, and institutions have shifted more of the burden to students and their families, Curtis said. At the same time, financial aid awards have not kept pace, and have been converted primarily into loans rather than grants, thereby increasing the student debt burden.
The rise in tuition prices has coincided with rapid growth in part-time faculty appointments that can pay low wages and usually do not include benefits, the group reported.
Sara Hebel, senior editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education, said the overall theme of the group's report is that faculty pay, like higher education as a whole, is facing a slow recovery.
"It's been a struggle for many institutions, and more so for the public ones," she said.
"Again, it's about priorities," Curtis said. "Within institutions, the primary focus must return to funding the academic mission by supporting all of the faculty members who teach the students and do the research that benefits society. As a nation, we need to make a renewed commitment to match the acknowledged importance of higher education with sufficient funding to keep it affordable."
Over 90 percent of the CEOs of large corporations are college graduates who learned skills in business and engineering, but also in English composition, foreign languages and mathematics, Thornton said.
"So, I would argue that the real 'job-creators' are the college professors who taught the CEOs," Thornton said. "With an average pay of $82,556 for full-time faculty, "that professor doesn't even make it into the top 20 percent, much less the top 1 percent."