When it was announced last week that Robert Jones will become the next UAlbany president, there were a few eyebrows raised about his compensation -- he'll receive a total of $555,000. That includes salary, money from the Research Foundation, and a housing allowance.
That's a lot, no matter what job you're doing. And given that the SUNY system has faced budget cuts recently, it's understandable that the figure would catch attention.
But is it too high? That's a hard question. And people are going to have different answers based on their own perspectives.
To get some context, we pulled data about presidential compensation at UAlbany, RPI, Union, Skidmore, St. Rose, Siena, and the Sage Colleges -- and broke it down to see how it compares across multiple categories.
Here's the result...
A table with the information is in large format above -- click or scroll all the way up. Explanations for sources and caveats are below.
A few observations
+ The UAlbany compensation for Robert Jones (in the photo, right) would rank him second in the Capital Region. But even so, his per student, percent of budget, and multiple of professor compensation figures either don't stand out or are relatively low.
+ How you view his compensation total probably depends on how you view the job. If you see it as more of a CEO type of position, then maybe it doesn't strike you as being notable. UAlbany is a big local brand (and a growing national one, thanks to nanotech). It has a budget of about $160 million. The position comes with a lot of responsibility. And Jones has a lot of experience. People who do those sorts of jobs tend to make a lot of money.
+ But if you see the UAlbany president's job as a public service position, similar to that of an elected official, maybe you lean toward the compensation total being too high. (The governor of New York makes $179,000.) Sure, the job deserves sizable compensation -- it is an important position -- but the school's mission is to benefit the public, not make money. Perspective matters a lot.
+ By many of these measures, George Philip's compensation is low relative to many of the other schools.
+ Jones will still not be UAlbany's highest paid employee -- nano emperor Alain Kaloyeros made almost $800k in 2011 [See Through NY]
+ 2011 compensation for a few other SUNY presidents: $343,312 (Buffalo), $355,745 (Binghamton), $650,000 (Stony Brook) [SeeThroughNY] [Chronicle of Higher Education]
+ The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that Shirley Jackson's compensation is among the highest in the nation for a private school president.
+ Presidential compensation for Siena is unusual because, as a Franciscan, Kevin Mullen doesn't technically take a salary (he's taken a vow of poverty as part of his religious order). The school states in its Form 990 that, "Payments to the order are made in lieu of the president's salary, which is determined by the trustees. Trustees establish the in lieu of payment through the use of comparable salary data for similarly-situated colleges." In 2008 the Times Union reported this payment was "about $150,000." So that's the figure we used. It could be higher now. (The highest compensated VP at the school was listed at $188,213.)
+ It's interesting that many of the figures for Union and Skidmore -- schools that are similar in many ways -- are roughly the same.
+ All these people make a lot of money compared to the general population of the Capital Region. But, if they do their jobs well, there is a case to be made that they're worth it. Both financially -- a good college president will help the school raise money from alumni and donors, help grow its reputation, and help draw more and better students. And socially -- a good college president is helping set the scene for the education of thousands of young people. That's an important job. (By that same line of thinking, you could argue that professors and teachers in general also deserve to be well compensated.)
+ A comparison like this is never going to capture much nuance. It is, at best, a rough way to get some context for the situation. And there might be better perspective not from comparing local colleges with each other, but rather comparing them with other similar colleges (size, public/private, how selective they are) in the Northeast. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a nationwide comparison.
This information was pulled from a variety of sources, and in most cases is for 2010:
+ Presidential compensation, budget, number of employees, and average employee compensation were pulled from the Form 990 that each school files as a non-profit (UAlbany does not have to file this form, so its info is missing in a few categories). We got a hold of these forms via the website Guidestar.
+ Enrollment and cost of attendance were pulled from data collected by the federal National Center for Education Statistics. Cost of attendance is for undergrad.
+ The average compensation for tenured professors was pulled from the American Association of University Professors' 2009-2010 "Report on the Economic Status of the Profession."
+ As with anything like this, there are a bunch of qualifications. We're probably not comparing apples and oranges, but there are a few places where we're comparing different types of apples -- maybe apples and pears. We explain more below.
Caveats and explanations
This is a lot of detail, but it's here if you want it.
+ There are a lot of possible sources for some of this information. And in some cases -- say, for enrollment -- numbers we found in different places varied somewhat (enrollment numbers stated in the federal data were often a bit different from the figures listed in school publications). Where possible we tried to use the same source across all schools. So again, using enrollment as an example, the enrollment figures were all pulled from the NCES reports.
+ Some of these figures are for the 2010 calendar year. Others are for the 2009-2010 school year. So that could cause some distortion.
+ Cost of attendance is defined by NCES as "the sum of published tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the average for room, board and other expenses." It's like the sticker price for a school. Many students at the schools are not paying that price because of scholarships, grants, or other sorts of financial aid.
+ The budget number for each school was pulled from the "total expenses" line on the 990 form.
+ The number of people employed by a school was pulled from the "total number of individuals employed in calendar year 2010" line on the 990 forms. The total compensation all employees figure was pulled from the "salaries, other compensation, employee benefits" line on the 990 -- that was then divided by the number of employees figure to determine the average employee compensation. This is pretty crude -- a median employee compensation number would probably be better -- but it provides a rough idea of how much the school pays its employees.
+ A note about Mark Sullivan's compensation at St. Rose: On the school's 990 it lists his total compensation for the year at $1,009,068. But the school explains in a note that $675,588 of that sum "represents a payout of Dr. Sullivan's accumulated balance [from a retirement plan] based on 15 years of service to the college." So we used the non-retirement plan payout portion of his compensation for the purposes of this table.
+ Because UAlbany doesn't file a 990, we had to look elsewhere for info. George Philip's 2010 compensation at UAlbany was pulled from the Empire Center's See Through NY database. And the budget number is from a document posted on UAlbany's website that lists total financial plan figures for the last handful of years. The George Philip budget figure is the "total financial plan" number for 2009-2010 before mid-year cuts.
+ Pulling together numbers for the Robert Jones line in the table presented a challenge because his compensation will be for 2013. So we did our best to pull current info for his line. The enrollment figure and cost of attendance are from UAlbany's website. The budget number for 2010-201, from that document posted on UAlbany's website. The fact that his compensation figure is for next year, and the other info is from other years, could distort things a bit.
+ Sometimes info listed in reports and publications is wrong, or somehow gets revised later on. Sometimes it gets transcribed incorrectly. Your mileage may vary. Corrections and clarifications are always welcome.
Graduate programs at both UAlbany and St. Rose advertise on AOA.
Robert Jones photo via UAlbany
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