On top of it all

By BenitaZepeda

Salaries for Columbia’s top 10 highest paid administrators increased slightly during the 2007 – 2008 academic year. The increase occurred just one year before Columbia faced its first-ever decreased enrollment numbers and a funding level that fell short of the projected budget amidst a daunting economic climate.

In an annual survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Columbia’s President Warrick L. Carter has fallen from the third highest-paid private college president in the state of Illinois, to the fourth with a salary of $316,609. The survey gathers data from colleges and universities across the nation, and compares the salary information among presidents

of those institutions.

Carter’s salary is only exceeded by Bryant L. Cureton of Elmhurst College, Charles R. Middleton of Roosevelt University and the highest paid private college president in the state, Joanne K. Glasser of Bradley University.

In order, the top 10 highest compensated administrators at Columbia after Carter include: Zafra Lerman, head of the Science Institute, at $245,445; Steven Kapelke, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, at $219,026; R. Michael DeSalle, CFO and vice president of Business Affairs, at $210,731; Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment, at $203,675; Annice Kelly, vice president and General Counsel, at $197,195; Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, at $193,387; Eric Winston, vice president of Institutional Advancement, at $193,009; Eliza Nichols, dean of Fine Arts, at $188,399 and J. Richard Dunscomb, chair of the Music Department, at $187,674.

The 990 IRS filings, which the survey used to compare income, are released one year after they are filed, and salary information about this academic year will not be released until 2011. The filings show, in detail, how each individual is compensated, how much money is included in their benefit plan and if they have

an expense account.

The 990 tax forms submitted for the 2007-2008 academic year indicated that the top salaries have increased since 2006 – 2007. This is the amount of money administrators and faculty members are compensated, excluding their benefit plans and expense accounts if they have them.

DeSalle said that even though there has been a slight increase in salaries this year, he has seen an effect due to the economy, and Carter has responded to that.

“Salaries are frozen this year at Columbia College,” DeSalle said. “We are on a fiscal year, so Sept. 1 started our new year and all full-time faculty and staff salaries have been frozen. Nobody received a raise this year, so there is an impact with the economy.”

He said he also wants it to be known that Columbia is still in great economic condition, even though this year’s projected budget was higher than the actual budget.

“We understand the economy and  we understand that it’s a jobs decline out there,” DeSalle said. “We’re trying to hold tuition increases as low as we can and to do that, we need to hold our expenses, and so we started by freezing the salaries of people.”

One difference between the 990 forms filed for 2006 – 2007 as opposed to 2007 – 2008, is the way the money was recorded.  At first glance, it appears that the top 10 highest compensation and benefit plans were lower. However, this not the case.

As The Chronicle reported on Dec. 1, 2008, Carter’s salary was $434,474, but DeSalle said that his actual salary, which is money not included in his benefit plan, was $301,506.

This is because money was either recorded in the incorrect column or the 990 forms had a different way of reporting the money, DeSalle said. He said the form’s new format will help create a consistency between the annual reports.

“When we get to the new format, which is going to be next year in July, everything has changed,” DeSalle said. “When you look at the salary columns, instead of three, there are 10 columns. We are going to have to put things that we grouped before in separate columns.”

DeSalle also said that the new format is going to be much easier, for someone who is reading the tax forms to understand.

“When we’ve lumped [reported money] together, it’s kind of hard for the reader to know what is in there,” DeSalle said. “I think it’s going to be easier.”

Carter’s salary is decided on by Columbia’s Board of Trustees and administrators and faculty members’ salaries are decided by the compensation policy in the Human Resources Department and reviewed by Carter. The individual’s educational background, the institution and their experience help determine their rate of compensation.  The market base, which is a general comparison of what other institutions are paying presidents, administrators and faculty members, is one of the biggest factors that

influences salaries.

DeSalle said that even though the salaries look large on paper, they are justified within the market compared to other administrators and faculty members that hold the same positions at other institutions.

“You have to pay professors and you have to pay administrators sort of what is in the market,” DeSalle said. “We are a more complex institution than many of the other institutions because of our location, what we offer and our size.”

Ellen Krutz, vice president of Human Resources, said that compensation is determined by looking at various annual surveys, such as the one conducted by its College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

“They publish that data and break it up in various ways,” Krutz said. “We mostly rely on CUPA because it is independent and large, and it is done every year so it’s always up to date.”

Krutz also said that the compensation for administrators and faculty members fits right in with the rest of the market base.

“We neither have concerns about paying people more than what comparable institutions pay, nor do we have issues about having to catch people up,” Krutz said. “We’re always somewhere within the range.”

This current year, DeSalle said students received a 3 percent increase in tuition, which he said was the lowest in the state of Illinois. The salary freeze is a step to help ease the effects of the economy and keep future tuition increases to a minimum.

“I think that goes a long way to help students,” DeSalle said. “Students need to know that’s exactly the path that the president has us following.”Mark Bousquet, author of  How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation, said that research shows correlation between teacher salaries and student satisfaction, and that faculty members, not administrators, are actually underpaid considering their qualifications and importance to student success.

“One of the reasons administrators are paid so highly, unfortunately, is to cover up the consequences for students of the scandal of low teacher pay,” Bousquet said. “Paying teachers more would have a real and enduring consequence for students.”

Bousquet said that for the current academic year, some administrators could be benefiting  of the current state of the economy.

“Sadly, most administrators are taking advantage of the crisis to try and lower teacher salaries, and cover up student non-persistence,” he said. “With more and more students turning to higher education as a shelter from the economy, the fact that the majority of students drop out from institutions like Columbia just isn’t on anyone’s radar—and it should be.”

In response to people who feel administrators are paid highly, Bousquet said that high salaries are a way to cover up the fact that faculty members are paid fairly low.

“Faculty salaries are low. Most faculty, nationally, are on temporary contracts and earn wages comparable to wait staff and bartenders,” he said. “Administrators get highly paid to pretend that this shabby practice doesn’t affect the quality of your education or the likelihood that you’ll get your degree. Students should demand more full-time tenure-track faculty with the terminal degrees in their fields, lower tuition and smaller, leaner, administrations.”