Top salaries at college similar to those at peer institutions

The majority of Swarthmore’s top-compensated employees were paid between $220,000 and $360,000 in 2013, according to a review of the most recent year for which the college’s tax returns are available. Overall, salaries rose faster than inflation rates over the past several years. Pay per year did not increase from the 2008-2009 year to 2009-2010, during the Great Recession, but raises were higher the next year to compensate for this fact. Salaries were similar at peer schools such as Haverford, Williams, Amherst, and Pomona.

Former President Rebecca Chopp was a particularly high earner in 2013, and was paid a total of about $713,000 in base compensation, deferred compensation, and nontaxable benefits. Total compensation on the list for other positions added up to around $229,000 for Director of Admissions Jim Bock, $250,000 for Dean of Students Liz Braun, $241,000 for Vice President of Communications Nancy Nicely, and $362,000 for Professor Scott Gilbert, for example.

The college is required each year to report to the IRS the compensation for its president and the president’s staff as well as for the five most highly compensated employees at the institution, according to Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Brown. In addition to the president’s staff, Swarthmore’s top-compensated employees include, similar to peer schools, several professors.

Total compensation for each employee includes direct salaries as well as bonuses, other compensation deferred compensation, and non-taxable benefits.

Other compensation, Brown said, could include housing, as it does in the case of Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Karl Clauss and Braun. Deferred compensation — which Swarthmore pays to most of its employees — usually consists of contributions to pension accounts, and funds set aside for future sabbaticals, Brown said. Brown added that typically when provosts and presidents return to positions as faculty members (Professor Constance Hungerford, for example, has served as both provost and interim president during her time at the college), they will have earned a sabbatical leave. These leaves, Brown said, are reported as deferred compensation in the tax returns. Nontaxable benefits, meanwhile, include housing, life insurance, and tuition money for dependent children, Brown explained.

The amounts allotted to each of these categories, Brown added, vary by position and individual (Braun’s nontaxable benefits, for example, were nearly $60,000 in 2013, much higher than those of the other top-compensated employees and second only to former President Rebecca Chopp, despite her total compensation being on par with that of the other employees).

Raises and other changes to compensation are approved by a compensation committee of the Board of Managers, Brown said. Except for the president, the specific job duties and starting salaries for the president’s office staff are set by the president and approved by the committee.

“The base compensation amounts are fairly consistent across institutions, which reflects the benchmarking that each institution seems to be doing,” Brown said.

Compensation by position did vary considerably among peer schools. Chopp, for instance, made about $50,000 more than Amherst’s president, the closest comparison, in total compensation in 2013. Williams’ president that same year, meanwhile, earned $580,000, Haverford’s $566,000, and Pomona’s $520,000.

Additionally, Provost Tom Stephenson made around $60,000 more than the top-compensated provosts at the college’s peer institutions. Meanwhile, the college’s former Treasurer and Vice President for Finance, Sue Welch, was making about $80,000 less per year in total compensation than, for instance, Amherst’s treasurer, a similar amount to Williams’ treasurer, and more than both Pomona’s and Haverford’s treasurers. The college’s Managing Director of Investments Mark Amstutz, at the time of the filing, was paid the least out of all peer institutions — only $250,000 to Amherst’s $400,000, and Williams’ $558,000 for its officer with the same title and its nearly $1.2 million for its chief investment director.

The differences in compensation can be accounted for by different specific duties for the positions across schools, Brown said. Additionally, an emerging but not prevalent trend at some colleges is to pay bonuses to investment staff. Williams seems to be the only school in the college’s peer group that follows this practice, which accounts for the seven-figure compensation of its chief investment director.

The top salaries could not be calculated as a percentage of the annual operating budget of the college due to the fact that the budget is built on a fiscal year basis, while the tax reporting is done on a calendar year basis, Brown said.


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