Instructor salaries at CMU remarkably low compared to state and nation

Classified ad placed by Colorado Mesa University in the 11/12/23 issue of the Daily Sentinel for a tenure-track assistant professor of nursing

Colorado Mesa University (CMU) has been advertising for a tenure-track assistant nursing professor for its Montrose campus.

The position requires teaching 12 course credit hours each semester, or 24 credits over an academic year, which is considered a standard, full-time teaching load. Applicants must also have a current RN license, plus a minimum of two years of full time professional clinical experience and a graduate degree in nursing from a nationally accredited school of nursing, with a Ph.D. preferred, as well as other requirements.

But the pay is only $55,000 – 60,000 a year.

This struck me as low, given the qualifications CMU requires of applicants who apply for the position.

Investigation shows it is, in fact, an extraordinarily low salary.

Salaries for similar positions elsewhere in Colorado and across the country reveal that CMU’s instructor pay — at least for this position — is indeed remarkably low compared to other parts of the state, and the U.S. in general:

A full time Assistant Professor of Nursing at Colorado State University, Pueblo, will make $70-80k yearly plus benefits, compared to CMU’s $55-60k, according to this listing on

Average salary for nursing professors with Ph.D. degrees across the U.S. start at over $15,000 more than the highest salary CMU pays for the same position (info from

Average base salary for people with a Ph.D degree in nursing in the United States, according to

Average base salary for a nursing instructor in the U.S., according to

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a nursing professor in Colorado is $72,571/year, or about 22% higher than the highest salary CMU pays

I posted information about CMU’s pay scale for an assistant professor of nursing on social media and got a host of comments. Some were from people who work at CMU, or had to turn down instructor positions in the nursing department at CMU due to the low pay. This information about salaries and the comments it generaged could provide important feedback to CMU, as the school has developed a reputation for prioritizing acquisition of real estate and building more buildings (pdf) and emphasizing athletics while neglecting to pay decent salaries to its academic staff that are at least commensurate with those paid to academic staff elsewhere:

Adjunct instructors are part-time faculty members who are hired when needed, and on a contractual basis. They may teach for only a few semesters and usually teach courses on introductory or general subjects. Adjuncts are not considered full time employees of the university (or college) and usually don’t have offices on campus due to space limitations. They are not tenured, which means they have no assurance of continued employment. They often come out of a specific industry to teach for awhile, and then return to that industry when they are done teaching.

  6 comments for “Instructor salaries at CMU remarkably low compared to state and nation

  1. Regardless of the “department” or sham programs offered at Mesa, it is literally more lucrative to sweep the floors at EVERY OTHER PUBLIC UNIVERSITY IN COLORADO than actually be an educator here. So let’s be honest about the quality of learning this revolving door of right-wing leadership and bloated admin staff really want to preserve here. The fact that it somehow still receives public funds, is (falsely) acknowledged as a state school, and qualifies for fed grants is a galling grift of resources…because it would absolute shutter its doors overnight if this support dried up and they could no longer trap student into debt for degrees worth less than the paper they’re printed on.

    This is one of those rare and corruptly-siloed institutions of “higher education” that might actually might better serve the community by burning down and then rebuilt by a real university as an extension campus.

  2. Thanks for highlighting this issue Anne. I left CMU in 2020 after three years as a tenure-track assistant professor. My salary with four degrees (BA, BFA, MA, PhD) and about 10 years of experience was $51,000. Being a university professor was my dream job, but as I got older and with GJ’s cost of living, I knew it wasn’t going to be tenable financially. What people don’t understand is that you only get two promotions in your career (assistant -> associate, and associate -> full), and annual raises of 2-3% (if you’re “lucky”) that don’t keep up with inflation. And that’s only for the very few that are in tenure-track/tenured positions.

    John Marshall recently co-authored an op ed in the Sentinel on the need for more affordable housing in the valley. While this is absolutely true, his refusal to address the low pay of CMU faculty and instructors was tone deaf to put it mildly. This was several weeks after he justified (in the same paper) propping up a money-losing sports program to the tune of $8 million.

    CMU is one of the largest employers in the region, and yet it seems to escape scrutiny by city and county officials. They (city and county leaders) should be asking Marshall what CMU is doing to improve salaries amongst staff and faculty (admin excluded), and what they are doing to address the 18-24 demographic decline (CMU’s primary consumer) – and that’s just to start.

  3. PBS Newshour ran yet another story last evening touching on this very topic. A third of current nurses getting ready to retire (me in four years), combined with over 100k nurses thinking of leaving the profession due to burnout and the final blow, the critical shortage of nursing instructors related to low pay. Over 10,000 qualified applicants for nursing school were turned away last year due to a shortage of nursing instructors. Plus, nursing applicants Nation-wide is down 15%. All this adds up to a projected shortage of 500,000 nurses in the next two years. CMU might want to get their act together fast. It is not implausible for their nursing program to dry up and blow away.

  4. Ann, you are preaching to the choir on this topic! You might remember this ‘historical revelation! MSC, 1994 was majoring in Environmental Restoration and doubling with Crim Law. Our-2 of us-mid term research paper was to pull the payroll numbers-under FOIA-and then ‘Batch’ them in order that we would be able through analytical comparisons program. We did it, wow! what a surprise…The person-professor with phD-we thought was earning the highest, was earning less than an adjunct-Masters degree. The research/study was not limited to only the education department but, included ‘support’ personnel. Haven’t spoken nor written a word related to the paper, until tonight!

    • Great. Anne’s careful investigation substantiates your 1994 data.
      An impt expose, revisited.
      We do quickly forget issues as info continues to accelerate in and out of our line of vision.
      The will to correct profound salary disparaties and get real, should be initiated by CMU admin.

  5. Oh how ironic that a higher education facility would encourage students to get degrees that they will not be able to live on and likely take out a student loan to pay for it. Another irony; you could manage a Pizza Hut for that salary! Why bother!
    This is not just Nursing, ALL of the jobs at CMU (with the exception of Administration perhaps) pay a substandard wage. This is a true reflection of their conservative leadership (have your picture taken with L. Boebert, the dropout poster child who never got her HS diploma). When you pay that salary, you will NOT get qualified instructors and students have little discernment of what quality higher education even looks like.

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