Category Archives: Living Wage Policy Study

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.



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!

What do the 2019 AP Preseason Top 25 College Football Poll and our 2018 list of institutions with publicly-available living wage policies have in common? More than you might think.

You know autumn is just around the corner when the AP releases its annual pre-season poll of sportswriters and broadcasters ranking the top 25 college football teams. Since I both teach and earned my degrees at institutions that don’t play NCAA football, I don’t have a strong on-field rooting interest…

…but whenever I see a list a schools, I refer back to this project and last year’s (2018) list of 32 American higher education institutions (HEIs) with (either all or part of) a living wage policy publicly available on their institution’s website – that about 1% of all four year HEIs (see my AASHE webinar here).

It looks as though schools with (preseason) top-ranked football teams are more likely to have some form of living wage policy than the larger population of all institutions. Out of the 25 teams making the 2019 preseason poll, only 3 institutions were on last year’s living wage policy – that’s 12% of teams in the poll. Only 1 of the 21 teams “also receiving votes” in the poll is on the living wage policy list, so out of all 46 teams receiving votes, about 8.5% of the are on the living wage policy list.

The four teams/institutions are 16th ranked Auburn University (2018 Living Wage Policy score 40), 19th ranked University of Wisconsin (35), 25th ranked Stanford University of Wisconsin-Madison (90), and “also-receiving votes” but unranked Utah State University (20).

I’m pondering this: If all 3,000+ four year institutions in America had living wage policies at the same rate as the 46 vote-getting schools in the AP preseason football poll, there would be over 250 institutions with some sort of living wage policy (instead of 32).

This fall I’m soliciting participation from chief human resource officers (CHROs) in this project to answer that question. As before, I’ll be asking if living wage policies and/or practices are in effect. I’ll be asking institutions with policies to provide them, and I’ll be inviting CHROs at colleges with living wage policies or practices to be interviewed about their institution’s practices. Of particular interest to me is (a) how those living wage policies came about, and (b) the financial impact of those policies on institutions.

Exciting news: 2019 AASHE presentation

It’s been awhile since my last post; folks following the blog will be hearing from me more frequently during my sabbatical, which started earlier this week…

I’m starting off the sabbatical year with great news – I’ll be presenting at the 2019 AASHE Conference & Expo in Spokane, WA (October 27-30). I’m delighted because AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, has been an ideal venue for me to report on my research-in-progress and meet colleagues from a range of higher education institutions. This year’s conference theme is Co-Creating a Sustainable Economy, and the conference:

“…is tackling the root cause for the continued rise in carbon emissions: our dysfunctional economic system. The conference seeks to showcase and strengthen higher education’s contributions to the movement for a sustainable economy, which we see as inclusive of the exciting work happening under a variety of other names such as the solidarity economy, wellbeing economy, circular economy, post-growth economy, regenerative economy and restorative economy…”

My contribution to the conference is a presentation on the morning of Monday, October 28:

Illuminating the Invisible: How Institutions Address and Afford Social Sustainability” (9:15-10:15 AM, Monday 28 October, Spokane, Room 300D).

Click the title above for a full description of the session.

If you are planning on attending AASHE 2019 and would like to connect at (or before/after) the conference, please drop me a note.

I hope to see you in Spokane!