Like any organization, how a college allocates its budget says a lot about its priorities. Sunshine into the workings of private colleges is rarer than for public universities, to whom public records laws apply. But if you are curious, a trickle of information available from disclosure forms. To get a sense of how the Claremont Colleges allocate their academic budgets, the Port Side examined 990 forms for the 2009-2010 academic year, the most recent year available. The big picture that this data shows may not be surprising: CMC’s Economics faculty earn the highest salaries of any Claremont Colleges professors and Pomona’s endowment is the largest.
Due to Internal Revenue Service due dates, the most recent publicly-available data is from the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which ended in June 2010. Unless otherwise noted, all of the salary figures in this article are for that fiscal year.
Though teaching, even as a college professor, is not often considered a high-paying job, many 5C professors earn large salaries. But these high salaries are not spread evenly across the 5Cs: the highest-paid Claremont McKenna professor makes almost twice the base salary of the highest-paid Scripps and Pitzer professors. And the colleges’ endowments are far from equal.
Highest Paid Professors
The highest paid professors from each Claremont College.
Many economics faculty are well-represented: all five of CMC’s highest paid professors teach economics and Pomona’s second-highest, Gary Smith, (who is highest in terms of total compensation) also teaches economics. However, Smith is paid far more than his colleagues in Pomona’s economics department. All of them earned less than $162,489: at least $60,000 less than Smith.
Pitzer’s faculty has another large pay gap. Politics professor Thomas Ilgen earned $225,060 per year, but the next highest-paid Pitzer faculty member Peter Nardi, earned $142,548, more than $80,000 less in base compensation. The gap shrinks to $65,000 when total compensation is considered. Update 2/24/2011: Despite having been listed as a faculty member on Pitzer’s disclosure forms, Peter Nardi served as acting President of Pitzer College for one semester during which he did not teach, which he says accounts for some of his salary. Thomas Ilgen’s base salary was correctly reported, but was higher than his typical base salary as a result of an early retirement agreement. The “large pay gap” existed only in the 2009-2010 school year because Ilgen retired after that year.
Only six of the 22 highest-paid 5C professors are women. None of Pitzer’s top four highest-paid professors are women.
Update 2/24/2011: Colleges pay salaries for professors and other employees from a variety of funding sources. Some professors receive grants or have endowed professorships which may account for some of their salaries; in other words, not all professors’ salaries are paid out of unrestricted funds.
Colleges disclose the salaries of all of their officers and trustees, but only the top five highest-paid employees. At the 5Cs, four or five of these highest paid employees were faculty. At many larger colleges and universities, coaches and athletic directors often fill these slots, along with a star doctor or two at the medical center, some of whom sometimes earn more than the president. For instance, Duke University’s men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski earns over four million dollars — more than five times what Duke’s president Richard Brodhead earns. We at the Claremont Colleges have a window into faculty and administration dynamics that students at large private universities like Duke lack.
The salaries of 5C presidents. Click the switch to see the salaries of presidents of liberal arts colleges similar to the 5Cs. Note that Scripps President Lori-Bettison-Varga
CMC President Pamela Gann is the highest-paid 5C president. In terms of base salary, Pitzer’s Laura Skandera Trombley and HMC’s Maria Klawe follow close behind. Pomona’s David Oxtoby earns about $30,000 per year less than Gann; Scripps’ Lori Bettison-Varga, who began in July 2009, earns about $50,000 less than Gann, at $345,000 per year.
Because Bettison-Varga was hired so recently, total compensation data for her first full year at Scripps is not yet available. The number expressed in the graph above for her total compensation is an estimate. It reflects her actual base compensation, $345,000 per year, times the ratio of reported base compensation to reported total compensation in her first partial year (for which data is available).
Compared to peer liberal arts colleges like Middlebury and Swarthmore (click switch in graph), the 5Cs’ presidents’ salaries appear to be about middle-of-the-road. Wellesley College’s L. Kim Bottomly earns almost $500,000 per year in base compensation, but Swarthmore College’s Rebecca Chopp earns only $248,000 per year — less than that college’s vice president for finance and only $2,000 per year more than the school’s provost.
When total compensation is taken into account, the presidents of Washington and Lee University and Middlebury College earn significantly more than their 5C counterparts. Those schools’ presidents, Kenneth Ruscio and Ron Liebowitz, earn about as much as the 5C presidents in terms of base salary.
(The Port Side selected highly-ranked small liberal arts colleges as the 5Cs’ peers. A few peer colleges’ presidents had recently retired; the data was therefore inappropriate for comparison because either the retiring president received a package of deferred compensation or because the new president only worked for part of the year.)
In December 2011, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an expansive story about the salaries of private college presidents. According to their data, the 5C presidents all earn more than the median for private colleges and university presidents. However, the 5C presidents also earn far less than some: excluding retiring presidents who received deferred compensation, the highest-paid private university president is Vanderbilt University’s Nicholas Zeppos, who earns $1.89 million in total compensation in the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
Vice President spending
The salaries of 5C vice-presidents, grouped by school. Click each bar to see the salaries of each vice president.
It is no secret that the cost of attending college has skyrocketed over the past few decades, even when adjusted for inflation. But what’s the cause? Construction and country club-like amenities are often cited as one reason, for instance, by President Obama. Writers at the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Washington Monthly, US News & World Report and Inside Higher Ed all blame colleges hiring more and more administrators at ever higher salaries.
The Claremont Colleges are not immune to large-scale spending on administration. The salaries of all 5C Vice Presidents are disclosed by the colleges. Neither the salaries of non-Vice President administrators nor a total of all of their salaries is publicly available. The graph here displays only the 2009-2010 salaries of administrators with “Vice President” in their title, other than Associate Vice Presidents.
Richard Vos, Claremont McKenna’s former Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, was the lowest-paid CMC VP. In an interview earlier this month, Gann said that Vos’s compensation was not tied to rankings or SAT scores in any way. He earned a base salary of $144,891 and, from the 2008-2009 school year to the 2009-2010 school year, had the lowest salary increase: 2.96 percent. Other vice presidents’ salary increases were between 8.3 percent and 28.5 percent. Vos’s salary was not available for the 2007-2008; of those that were available, other vice presidents’ salaries for the 2007-2008 year were higher than 2008-2009 salaries, but lower than 2009-2010 salaries. A sharp drop in Vos’s total compensation between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 was “related to benefits under the College’s tuition remission policy for dependent children,” according to CMC spokesman Max Benavidez.
Invested portion of each school
Pomona’s endowment is by far the largest of the 5Cs, at more than three times the size of CMC’s, which has the next largest endowment. In fact, Pomona’s endowment is greater than the sum of the other four undergraduate colleges’ endowments.
These figures are the audited total dollar value of the invested portion of each school’s endowment; this is what each school typically reports as its endowment. These values are up-to-date as of June 30, 2011.
CMC’s endowment had fallen to slightly below $400 million in 2009, likely as a result of the financial crisis, but, as of 2011, had recovered to June 2008 levels.
Of course, spending a lot of money — something that the Claremont Colleges do not find in short supply — is not a bad thing. In some ways, the colleges probably get what they pay for. During President Gann’s tenure, CMC’s national rankings have skyrocketed; even though those rankings are now being called into question, it is likely that any rankings drop will be small or non-existent. CMC’s Economics department, home of CMC’s top five highest-paid professors, is extremely highly regarded. Each school also benefits from highly ranked amenities and extracurriculars: those highly paid administrators guarantee that Pomona and CMC “run like butter” and that Scripps and Pomona have “dorms like palaces.” These might be impossible without high levels of administration spending. Likewise, the colleges’ high levels of spending would be unsustainable without a base of skilled fundraisers.
At the end of the day, however, the Claremont Colleges’ primary strength is their high levels of student-faculty interaction, small class sizes and all-inclusive liberal arts experience. Doing whatever it takes to guarantee the highest-caliber faculty and happiest students makes sense for the schools’ missions.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2012 print issue of the Claremont Port Side.