Thank you, and yes, you can still complete the survey (please do!)

Greetings! This’ll be brief, touching on three things…

First, some huge and heartfelt thanks to the hundreds (!) of institutions that completed the survey during what is a very busy time of year. It is impossible for me — or anyone — to conduct this research unless busy CHROs and their staffs make the time to provide me the needed data. I appreciate your time more than I can express. I’m beginning my data analysis this week; if you participated in the study, you can expect to receive my summary report of preliminary (i.e., pre-publication) findings by the end of March

Second, while the published closing date for the survey has passed, I’m holding the survey open for as long as I can for anyone who was unable to complete it by last Friday. The survey link I sent you via email will still work. If you need the link resent — or want me to send it to a colleague to complete the survey for your institution — please simply drop me a note at or call 610.660.2112.

Third, I’ll also be in touch soon by email and phone with three groups of people regarding:

  1. Completion. Before I can begin my analysis of the data, there’s the important step of cleaning and verifying the data. For a handful of surveys, a response may be missing or incomplete. I’ll be engaged in some outreach to see if we can make those surveys “complete” and make the resulting data usable. 
  2. Clarification. For a handful of public institutions that are part of multi-institution systems, I’ll be in touch to clarify which wage policies/practices are centralized and which are decentralized. 
  3. Collection. I’ll be following up with CHROs in a couple of groups of institutions in which I have heightened interest, as I am trying to get as close as possible to 100% participation — as my reviewers of an earlier manuscript requested! 

Each of the above shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes at most. Thanks in advance for your help.

Again, thank you.



Last week of survey data collection

Thank you!

Alas, all good things must come to an end. This Friday – February 14 – is the last day to complete the survey. The last of the invitation reminders are being sent/received today. See my previous posts for both an overview of the data collection (two posts back) and the post of FAQs (the most recent post before this one).

As I’ve described, the idea is to obtain as much as a “census” as possible of living wage policies and practices in American higher education. Even if your institution has never considered a living wage policy or practice, that’s important data and will inform my results.

For institutions that don’t have a living wage policy or practice, the average survey completion time is well under 2 minutes; for that modest investment of time you’ll get the summary of preliminary results which I expect to have available in the latter half of March. That’s about 7 months before this research will appear in journals, articles, or at conferences.

I am so very appreciative of all of the CHROs, their staffs and/or their colleagues who have completed the survey I’ve been distributing since mid-December. This research can’t be completed without you!

Thank you again for your interest – and participation – in the Living Wage Policy Study.





Survey FAQs (Jan-Feb 2020)

I thought it would be a good idea to make a post of survey-related FAQs because most invitees (1) don’t know me and (2) haven’t heard about the study until now. I will add to these FAQs as other questions arise.

By the end of this week, all of the invitations to participate in the current survey will have been emailed to Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) at all public and private non-profit four year higher education institutions in the United States. The initial response has been very encouraging, and I’m hopeful that as many institutions as possible will participate.


1. How long does it take to complete the survey?

2. How many institutions are being invited to participate in the survey?

3. How have you chosen which institutions to request data from?

4. Will the report list or otherwise identify the institutions that participate?

5. Will institutions be identified in subsequent phases of the study?

6. If we have a living wage policy, will it be shared with other institutions?

7. Why are you asking for our contact information in the survey?

8.  I received the invitation with the survey link, but I’m probably not the person who should complete it. How should I proceed?

9.  When does the data collection period end?

10.  Why conduct this survey now?

11.  Our institution doesn’t have a living wage policy – should I bother completing the survey?

12.  Our institution has most employees covered by collective bargaining agreements – should I bother completing the survey?

FAQs & Answers

1. How long does it take to complete the survey?

The vast majority of participants complete the survey in 2 to 4 minutes, with only a couple of participants taking more than 5 minutes to complete the survey – far less time than I described in the invitation.

2. How many institutions are being invited to participate in the survey?

The current number is about 2,000 institutions.

In the present study, I’m surveying all of the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral-granting institutions in the United States that are (a) private non-profit or (b) public. The most recent Carnegie Classification report put that number at 1,940 institutions.

To that list, I added some for-profit institutions if they appear up on any of the national university/college or four regional university/college lists published by U.S. News & World Report (USN&WR).

Professional schools, special (e.g., tribal) institutions, and around 1,000 community colleges will be surveyed in late spring or early summer to keep things manageable for the current survey.

3. How have you chosen which institutions to request data from?

This survey is designed as a census rather than a sample, since I’m trying to learn about living wage policies and practices across American higher education. I identified institutions using the most recent Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) database, which categorizes institutions and provides other institutional data.

The IPEDS list is combined and cross-referenced with the USN&WR and other college lists to make sure I don’t miss any institutions.

For each institution, I’m inviting participation through the top HR person in the organization, as identified by the institution either by their title (e.g., CHRO) or their functional role.

I should emphasize that the individuals receiving invitations to participate are being asked to respond on behalf of the institution; this is not a survey about CHROs or their individual perspectives.

4. Will the report list or identify the institutions that participate?

No, not in the present phase of the study. The list of institutions will not be included in my preliminary report on this year’s survey or the resulting cycle of papers (see (5) below).

My pre-publication report of preliminary results to participating institutions this spring will not identify participating institutions by name, nor will it otherwise over-identify any institutions. For example, I’d be using descriptors such as “public doctoral institutions” or “large undergraduate colleges” and other classification labels to describe data drawn from groups of institutions.

I’ll be reporting out on the response rate, the prevalence of living wage policies and practices, and the nature of living wage policies. A paper analyzing the nature of living wage practices will follow a bit later.

There are a lot of data from IPEDS that can be used to describe the institutions that participate (e.g., endowment dollars per student full-time equivalent (FTE), enrollment of subsets of the surveyed institutions). Again, that will also be reported in aggregate, not by institution.

For institutions where I’m interviewing someone (i.e., where the institution has adopted living wage practice), the institutions also will not be identified by name.

5. Will institutions be identified in subsequent phases of the study?

Institutions won’t be identified from the current survey, but in subsequent phases of the project, the answer is “it depends.”

Each phase of the larger project is self-contained, and institutions can choose to not to participate in later phases of the project (described on the website under Phases). In advance of each survey or other data collection, an institution will be aware of how its data will be used.

There are a couple of other phase of the project where institutions could be, are, or will be identified, but that is not part of this study:

  • Could be identified: If an interview this spring turns up a promising case study or example of practice/policy/process, I may double back to the interviewee and see if the institution wanted to be identified in subsequent work. If not, that’s fine. My “default” setting is “no identification” and an institution would have to “opt in” to be identified, so that identification would completely be the institution’s call, as it should be.
  • Are identified: My initial research on living wage policies examined policies publicly available via the institution’s public website. The institutions in that paper – which is being prepared for journal submission – will be identified.
  • Will be identified: I anticipate that this project may become a recurring survey (not unlike IPEDS), and there may be some point in the future where institutions would be identified. However, if that is the case, I would disclose that up front on a study-by-study basis.

My intent with the current survey is to collect data from as many institutions as will participate and to understand what current living wage practices and policies look like.

6. What about the living wage policies themselves?

The survey asks institutions that have a living wage policy to provide a copy of it; in exchange those institutions will have access to other institutions’ policies that are provided.

When completing the survey, participating institutions that have enacted a living wage policy are given the choice of uploading their document with identification removed or redacted (I’ll even do the redacting, if you’d prefer).

Institutions that share redacted policies will be able to benchmark other redacted policies; those institutions that share un-redacted policies will have access to the entire library of living wage policies. Essentially, an institution gets to “see” policies equivalent to what it has shared.

7. Why are you asking for our contact information in the survey?

For a handful of reasons:

  1. If you’ve already completed the survey, I really don’t want to send you a follow-up note asking you to do it again.
  2. I need to be able to connect your institutional responses to data from other sources (such as IPEDS).
  3. I need to be able to validate who participated in the survey.

8.  I received the invitation with the survey link, but I’m probably not the most appropriate person to complete it. How should I proceed?

Simply forward your invitation to the right person within your organization.

If you are new to your organization or position, there might be someone more knowledgable about living wage policies/practices and when/how they were implemented.

After that person completes the survey, they will become my point of contact for any follow-up.

9.  When does the data collection period end?

The survey is scheduled to close February 14, although I’d appreciate you completing the survey sooner rather than later.

10.  Why conduct this survey now?

I’ve been studying living wage policies and practices since mid-2015. This year, I am on research sabbatical in order to scale up the survey and increase my – and thus our – knowledge about the subject.

Additionally, the most recent Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) changes (effective January 1, 2020) means that HR professionals across higher education have a timely sense of compensation policies and practices affecting their institutions’ lowest paid employees.

11.  Our institution doesn’t have a living wage policy – should I bother completing the survey?

I hope you will, because I’m trying to survey every institution in the country and get the most complete and accurate data possible.

12.  Our institution has most employees covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) – should I bother completing the survey?

I hope you will, because I’m trying to survey every institution in the country and get the most complete and accurate data possible.

To date, each of the institutions that have I have identified as having a living wage policy or living wage practice have some employees covered by CBAs.

Survey data collection ends February 14

We’re now in the last portion of the survey data collection phase for the study, which will continue until Feb 14.

As before, I’m personally sending an email to the Chief Human Resource Officer of every four year public and private non-profit college and university in the 50 states and DC, inviting them to participate in the study and to benefit from participating by receiving our research results in advance of their publication. The surveys will be sent on a rolling basis over the next 10 days.

The updated survey takes less than 8 minutes to complete. All invitations to participate in the survey are sent from my email: The survey is hosted on Qualtrics (, and invitees are provided a secure link to the survey.

Based on participants’ survey responses, institutions with living wage policies are asked to submit their institution’s policy (if you wish, we’ll redact all identifications of your institution), while institutions with living wage practices are asked to be interviewed (about 30 minutes) about their practices. For either branch of the study, institutions will not be identified in our research results and reports.

If you are a CHRO and haven’t received an invitation to participate in the survey, please email me:

If you aren’t a CHRO, please encourage your CHRO to look for the survey and complete it. Living wage policies and practices are an increasingly important subject that higher education institutions will likely need to address, either sooner or later – but we can’t learn about HR practices in higher education without your help!

Thank you!

A busy fall – and an inspiring video

Who knew that a sabbatical could be so busy?

In October I presented at CUPA-HR (Denver) and AASHE (Spokane) in back-to-back weeks. At each conference I got to meet many interesting people and reconnect with a number of colleagues.

I had the wonderful privilege of hearing and meeting Michael J. Sorrell, one of the featured speakers at CUPA-HR. Sorrell is president of Paul Quinn College, an HBCU in Dallas. He shared PQC’s singular goal: “To end poverty.” He discussed leadership, food deserts, student loan debt, textbook costs, and so much more.

Along with the rest of the audience, I found Sorrell’s presentation moving – beyond inspiring. And he was just as genuine when talking with me in person as when he was on the stage. Call me a fan.

I tried to pick out a favorite quote, but there are far too many to choose from; for example: “We believe small schools can do big things.” That’s my only spoiler.

Although video of his CUPA-HR presentation doesn’t appear to be available, I found a video of earlier presentation of his that covers some of the same themes and material from SXSW EDU 2018: (unfortunately most of the slides aren’t visible).

It’s worth watching. It’s worth an hour. It’s worth rewatching.

Please let me know what you think of his talk!