What Recession? Universities Can Pay Non-Presidents $1M+

While generous compensation packages for college presidents have come under increasing public scrutiny, other university employees often earn far more.

In fact, of the 88 private-college employees who made $1 million or more in the 2007 fiscal year, only 11 were chief executives, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s analysis of compensation packages of more than 4,000 employees at nearly 600 private colleges.

The top two earners were a football coach at the University of Southern California and a Columbia University dermatology professor, each of whom received more than $4 million.

Pete Carroll, the head football coach at USC, received $4,415,714 in 2007, about four times as much as the president of the university, Steven B. Sample. Dr. David N. Silvers, the dermatologist at Columbia, received $4,332,759, compared with $1,411,894 for Lee C. Bollinger, the president of the university. And he was not the only Columbia employee who out-earned Bollinger: Dr. Jeffrey W. Moses, a professor of medicine, received $2,532,713.

“There are a lot of different spheres of influence throughout a university,” said Jeff Selingo, editor of The Chronicle, “and since medical schools and some specialties within them generate so much revenue, it’s not surprising that compensation reflects that.”

Selingo added: “Chief financial officers are highly paid because they are generally people who could get a job at a Fortune 500 company. What’s actually most interesting to me is that chief academic officers are getting so much. I think what’s happening is that they’re becoming the ones running the university day-to-day, as presidents are increasingly away from campus, talking to donors or traveling overseas to set up partnerships.”

The Chronicle’s data, which is taken from the Internal Revenue Service’s Form 990, do not include executives at public universities, which do not file that form. The figures, the most recent available, are from the tax filing for the 2006-7 fiscal year.

The pay for university presidents has risen sharply over the last decade — as has the gap between their pay and that of the average professor. At private colleges, The Chronicle found in its annual compensation survey, the average president’s salary is about $500,000.

Shortly after The Chronicle’s survey of presidential compensation was released in November, amid the nation’s financial meltdown, many public figures criticized the high pay, and a few presidents voluntarily gave back a portion of their pay.

“When you have college presidents making $1 million, you’re going to have $800,000 provosts and $500,000 deans,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. “It may be reasonable for these people to be well-paid, but if faculty’s getting 2 percent raises, I don’t see why senior administrators who are already high-paid should get much larger increases. It reflects a set of values that is not the way most Americans think of higher education.”

David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, issued a statement on Friday noting that highly paid university employees are the exception, not the rule. The median compensation for all employees in the Chronicle survey is $160,493, he said, significantly less than comparably skilled and experienced professionals would earn outside of universities.

The new Chronicle analysis of pay data listed the 10 highest paid employees other than chief executives, the 10 highest paid financial officers and the 10 highest paid academic officers. Only Emory University and Vanderbilt University were represented on all three lists.

Vanderbilt had two of the highest-paid employees on the top 10 list: Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, the vice chancellor for health affairs, and Norman B. Urmy, the former executive vice president for clinical affairs, who stepped down in June 2006. Each had a pay package worth more than $2.4 million.

Vanderbilt also had the highest-paid academic officer, Nicholas S. Zeppos, who earned $1,046,751, and the second-highest-paid financial officer, Lauren Brisky, who earned $1,159,197 and is retired as of this month.

In 2007, The Chronicle has reported, Vanderbilt also had the highest-paid university chief in the nation — E. Gordon Gee, who forfeited about half of his $2 million compensation package when he left to become president of Ohio State University.

Zeppos then succeeded him as chancellor of Vanderbilt last March.

The executive vice president for health affairs at Emory, Dr. Michael M.E. Johns, received $3,753,067, The Chronicle found, while the chief financial officer, Michael J. Mandl, received $666,300, and the chief academic officer, Earl Lewis, received $536,540.

The compensation figures include deferred compensation, some of which is subject to forfeiture.