Professors at Utah's nine colleges and universities are closing the gap, but they still make less on average than their colleagues in other states.

Figures presented to the Utah State Board of Regents show the compensation deficit ranges from 1.68 percent below average at Weber State University to 21.63 percent below average at Dixie College.Six years ago, professors made from 13.8 percent to 27 percent less than educators elsewhere in the nation.

Utah cannot take too much pride in the improvement, however.

"It is as much due to other states' fiscal misfortunes as things we've done here," said Anthony Morgan, vice president for budget and planning at the University of Utah.

"The Utah economy has been strong, though, so the salary increases have been reasonably good over the last two or three years and we're catching up with states that have financial problems," he added.

Faculty members at the University of Utah are paid 4.7 percent less than their peers at comparable institutions. In 1986, the compensation gap was 13.8 percent.

Morgan noted that those comparisons include both salary and fringe benefits. Utah's benefits package, which includes health insurance and tuition, raises the total compensation level.

"Faculty tend to look at salaries rather than compensation, and the gap is larger in salaries," he said.

At the U., professors earn an average annual salary of $49,807 against an average of $56,027 at its 10 peer institutions. But when benefits are factored in, U. professors receive an average annual compensation of $65,217 compared to an average of $69,237 at its peer institutions.

The comparisons do not take into account cost of living, which remains below average in the Salt Lake-Ogden area.