Top College Officials See Sizable Pay Raises

Top College Officials See Sizable Pay Raises

Don Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, had a total compensation package of $506,000 for the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s an eye-popping 42.6 percent higher than predecessor B. Alan Sugg’s just four years ago.

And he’s not the only university executive at Arkansas’ public four-year schools who saw his compensation package rise.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s chancellor, Laurence Alexander, had total compensation of $303,835 for the 2013-14 year. That amount was 41 percent higher than UAPB Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. received in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010.

Between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2014, however, a more typical increase in compensation for administrators at Arkansas universities was between 10 and 20 percent, including the increased cost of benefits like health insurance.

Arkansas Business reviewed the Administrator’s Compensation Survey reports filed with the state Department of Higher Education for the 2010 and 2014 fiscal years.

The survey reports list the compensation packages of all employees of Arkansas’ public four-year universities and two-year colleges who have salaries of $100,000 or more.

In the four-year period, the number of six-figure employees included in the report increased from 460 to 703.

(GET THE LIST: Click here to download a free PDF listing of the Top Administrators' Compensation at Arkansas Public Universities.)

Most of the people on the list have graduate degrees, which are in short supply in Arkansas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 6.1 percent of Arkansas adults had graduate degrees as of 2009, compared with 10.3 percent nationally.

For the tables that appear on this and the next two pages, Arkansas Business focused on the 11 public four-year universities, which include the ASU and UA systems, and analyzed only the positions — not the name of the employees — that had the word “chancellor” or “president” as part of the title. Arkansas Business found that of the 87 positions in the 2010 survey that could be matched to the 2014 survey, 55 positions had double-digit increases in total compensation.

Mercer, the financial services consulting firm, showed the average raise in base pay for U.S. employees has been climbing. It was 2.7 percent in 2011 and 2012 and 2.8 percent in 2013 and 2.9 percent in 2014, according to Mercer news releases. Cumulatively, that’s equal to an 11.6 percent increase over the four calendar years that correspond most closely to the fiscal years included in the higher ed salary research.

A survey by the College & University Professional Association for Human Resources found the median raise in base salary for administrators nationally was 2.3 percent in 2012 and 2.4 percent in 2013. But the organization did not release data on total compensation costs including benefits, so that research is not directly comparable.

In Arkansas Business’ tables, total compensation is the total cost of the position and includes base salary plus benefits provided to all full-time employees, such as Social Security match, retirement plan contributions and health and life insurance. Some of the employees also receive special benefits, such as housing allowance or club dues. That amount is included in the total compensation as well. A few positions are subsidized with private funds, and those dollars are included in the total compensation figure but also detailed separately.

For the tables, some positions on the 2010 survey could not be matched to positions on the 2014 survey, and vice versa.

The institutions provided the data to the Department of Higher Education.

Situation Normal

The Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank based in Washington, has found that administrator pay, especially presidents’ pay, at public universities has been rising since 2006, according to an email response to questions by Marjorie Wood, senior economic policy associate at IPS, who did not specifically review Arkansas Business’ findings.

“We think rising pay for university administrators usually reflects misplaced priorities at our nation’s public universities,” she said in the email. “When the university president is receiving an extravagant salary, it tends to be the tip of a very large iceberg of administrative excess and administrative bloat that don’t prioritize the quality of education.”

She expects the trend will continue.

“It’s hard to justify such extravagant salaries to the public — and parents, in particular — when so many students are taking on crippling debt just to get a college degree,” Wood said. “Add to the mix that the majority of faculty in America today work on a contingent basis — with low pay and little or no benefits — and excessive administrative pay seems even more out of sync.”

Others defend the practice.

Bobbitt, the president of the UA system, said in an email to Arkansas Business that the UA system hopes to “measure up to our peers both regionally and nationally. A big part of that is keeping our compensation packages competitive so we can attract top-tier talent to the state to help us fulfill and advance our mission to Arkansas.”

He said he realized that public senior administrative salaries “can be a point of concern, so it is necessary to point out that two of our top-level campus leaders, along with myself, declined raises this year.”

The two that declined raises were Joel Anderson, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Dr. Dan Rahn, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Other Schools

Among eight top Arkansas Tech University administrative positions, the total compensation for all but one climbed 20 percent or more between 2010 and 2014.

Sam Strasner, director of university relations at ATU in Russellville, said salaries there are determined by the board of trustees in accordance with guidelines set forth by the General Assembly.

“As enrollment growth and responsible fiscal policies have improved the financial standing of the university over the past two decades, a steady and systematic approach to improving pay for faculty and staff has been enacted so that Arkansas Tech may recruit and retain the personnel necessary to carry out its educational mission,” he said in an email.

Meanwhile, in the Arkansas State University System of campuses, six of 15 matching positions had lower compensation in 2014 than in 2010. Five of those were new employees hired at lower salaries than their predecessors earned.

In the sixth case — that of Robert Evans, vice president of university relations — total compensation from public funds increased by $9,320 (4.4 percent), but that wasn’t enough to offset the loss of $13,000 in private funds that had been part of his pay package in 2010. All told, his pay dropped 1.6 percent to $121,562 in fiscal 2014.

Three more positions had increases that would average out to less than 2 percent a year.

Meanwhile, the total compensation for the chancellor position increased 33.4 percent to $392,513 in 2014 compared with 2010.

“That position may have increased 33 percent, but it would be extremely misleading to say [Chancellor] Tim Hudson’s pay has gone up 33 percent, because he has not gotten a 33 percent raise,” said Jeff Hankins, VP for strategic communications and economic development for the ASU System.

Hankins is on the list in a position that was created in 2012, when he resigned as publisher of Arkansas Business. He said that when Hudson was hired in May 2012, his compensation package was based on market conditions, and the board and ASU President Charles Welch wanted to be competitive.

“All of our salaries are reviewed and approved by the board of trustees,” Hankins said. “There are annual performance reviews conducted by Dr. Welch and the chancellors,” he said, referring to ASU System President Chuck Welch.

Arkansas Business’ table also includes fiscal 2014 positions, like Hankins’, that didn’t have a direct match on the survey taken for fiscal 2010. There can be several reasons for that.

“One thing that’s tough about trying to match up these things is that what may look like a new position is not necessarily new because titles change all the time,” Hankins said.

And some 2010 administrators had left their schools by 2014.

Rising Costs

Leslie Taylor, a spokeswoman for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said in an email to Arkansas Business that UAMS hasn’t had escalating increases in its base salaries.

“Since this report was first filed in 2009, our costs have increased for such things as Social Security contributions made by UAMS, unemployment match, medical and dental insurance match and retirement match paid by UAMS,” Taylor said in an email response to questions from Arkansas Business. “All employees received raises in 2010 and 2012 and as salaries increase our costs with Social Security etc. have increased.”

Still, UAMS “only receives 7 percent of its funding from the state,” Taylor said. Other sources of revenue include student tuition and fees, gifts and revenue from patient services at the UAMS hospital and associated clinics.

She also said that UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn’s total compensation increased partly because 2010’s numbers weren’t for the full year.

“He, like all employees, did receive a raise in 2010 and 2012,” she wrote. “He has not received a raise in almost three years.”

Glen Jones, president at Henderson State University, also said he won’t get an increase for the current fiscal year. Still, the cost of the president’s position at Henderson increased 30 percent between 2010 and 2014.

Jones, who came to the university in July 2012, said that the positions and compensation packages at Henderson are consistent with its peers.

“We are sensitive to that and making sure that we’re not doing things extravagantly,” Jones said. “At the same time, in order to have the very best talent, it does come with a price tag. And for us, there’s a balance.”