Colorado State University sophomore Courtney Wilson works two jobs while attending school full time, in part to help make payments on $56,000 in student loans. Jonathan Castner/For BizWest

Campus payrolls defy recession

Despite recession-era budget cuts, Colorado’s top university officials awarded themselves handsome salary increases and went on a hiring spree

As Colorado staggered under the weight of the great recession, the state’s major research universities were dramatically boosting salaries and adding thousands of employees to payrolls.

At the same time, the schools told state lawmakers they were barely able to make ends meet because of state budget cuts.

During the decade from 2004 to 2014, top academic administrators saw their paychecks rise as much as 100 percent, while average salaries rose 24 percent for all wage earners in the state.

During that same decade, pay to all employees at Colorado’s major research universities also skyrocketed, as the institutions added thousands of employees, according to an analysis by BizWest.

In 2004, the president of the University of Colorado system made $400,000, the most of any employee of a major Colorado research university at the time. Ten years later, CU athletic director Richard George ranks as the highest-paid administrator in the state, making $700,000 in 2014.

Self-awarded raises

Administrators “control the budget, and they award themselves,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “Parents forced to swallow tuition increases are paying for very expensive administrators.”

Earnings of Colorado’s top academic administrators outpaced the growth in the average compensation for other university administrators statewide, which has increased by close to 24 percent during the past 10 years, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. At the same time, the bulk of the cost of an education shifted from the state of Colorado to Colorado students and their parents, who have had to rely on increasing levels of student loans and grants to fund college.

Andy MacCracken, who heads the Washington, D.C.,-based National Campus Leadership Council, a student advocacy group, said universities want to attract good administrators to oversee everything from higher enrollment to programs thwarting sexual assault.

However, students have shouldered the burden of increased costs, including pay to administrators, in a state that has cut funding for public higher education, he said.

“Students can’t really afford to pay any more of that tab,” he said.

Students shoulder rising expenses

In Colorado, in-state students pay most of the cost of their education, although the state once funded the majority of the cost of their degrees.

Universities defend the higher salaries as critical to recruit and retain qualified administrators to operate the large institutions in an increasingly complex regulatory environment. They also point out that their salaries are lower than similar positions at universities in other states.

The top 10 administrators in the nation make at least $850,000, for instance, with E. Gordon Gee ranking No. 1 in the nation with almost $6.1 million in pay when he served as president of Ohio State University, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s fiscal 2013 Executive Compensation Salary Survey. Gee, a former president of CU, now is president of West Virginia University.


As salaries increased, students picked up the tab. Full story.


In-state tuition soars

Critics call the high salaries too burdensome and the tuition hikes used to fund them excessive. Since the 2004-05 school year, Colorado’s major research universities have hiked tuition 40 times, with each school asking for and being granted annual increases.

For instance, in-state tuition and fees at CU-Boulder totaled $4,400 in 2004. By 2014, it had skyrocketed to $10,300.

The increased pay to Colorado’s top academics is part of a broader national trend, in which higher administrative costs account for about a third of the increased cost of higher education, Ginsberg said. Ginsberg, who chairs the Center of Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins, is author of “The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters.”

At the same time, universities have added administrators and awarded them pay raises while cutting course offerings and full-time faculty members and replacing them with adjunct instructors, Ginsberg said.

National data show increases in salaries and the number of administrators and other non-instructional employees at a number of major research institutions over the past 10 years, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Academic administrators proliferate

“There were three of these kinds of employees for every 100 students in 1976,” said Richard Vedder, director of the group and economics professor at Ohio University. “Now there are roughly six of these kinds of employees … adjusted for enrollment changes.”

Oversight of Colorado’s taxpayer-owned schools is conducted by boards either elected by voters or appointed by the governor, and those officials have consistently approved tuition hikes and the administrative salary increases. Universities gained the ability from the state Legislature to set tuition rates in 2010 amid pressure from admininstrators such as CU president Bruce Benson.

Another oversight body is the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. It doesn’t have direct authority over the colleges, but its mission is to provide access to “high-quality, affordable education for all Colorado residents.”

“We still are concerned about what things cost,” said Dick Kaufman, chairman of the state education commission. “Personnel costs are 80 percent of the budgets at the schools, and I don’t think that’s going to change much in the future.”

CU’s top 10 earn $4.1 million

Total salaries of the 10 highest-paid CU system administrators has increased to $4.1 million from $2.8 million in 2004, a 46 percent increase in the past 10 years. Total salaries paid to all university employees rose to $1.4 billion in 2014 from $687 million in 2004, an increase of 103 percent.

2004 2009 2014
Position Salary Position Salary Position Salary
President $400,000 Roy Wilson, chancellor, UCD $468,115 Richard George, athletic director, UCB $700,000
Interim Provost/Vice President Academic Affairs $389,584 Richard Krugman, vice chancellor , AMC $437,533 Richard Krugman, vice chancellor , AMC $517,191
Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs $308,000 Bruce Benson, president, SYS $378,000 Philip DiStefano, chancellor, UCB $406,505
Dean of College of Business $281,920 Lilly Marks, associate dean, exmpt prof, AMC $375,000 Donald MacKay Elliman, chancellor, UCD $371,700
Vice President of Administration $258,115 George Peterson, chancellor, UCB $363,478 Kelly Cronin, vice president for advancement, SYS $363,000
Interim Associate Dean $257,600 Richard Traystman, vice chancellor, UCD $324,880 Bruce Benson, president, SYS $359,100
Dean of the College of Education $243,000 Roderick Nairn, provost and vice chancellor, UCD $312,304 David Ikenberry, dean Leeds School of Business, UCB $359,100
Dean of College of Performance and Visual Arts $236,400 Michael Bohn, athletic director, UCB $297,709 Richard Traystman, vice chancellor Ressearch, UCB $345,005
Vice President of University Advancement $236,250 Jay Gershen, VC for external affairs, UCD $297,112 Roderick Nairn, provost and VC, ACAD and STD affairs, UCD $343,000
Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services $232,158 Philip DiStefano, exec vice chancellor and provost, UCB $292,990 Lilly Marks, executive vice chancellor/VP, AMC $335,552
Total employees: 32,258

Total salaries: $686.9 million

Total employees: 34,206

Total salaries: $1.03 billion

Total employees: 39,035

Total salaries: $1.40 billion

Total: + 21%

Total: + 103%

top_salaries_cu_admin

Kyle Hybl, chairman of the CU Board of Regents, said operations at CU, the state’s third-largest employer, have increased in complexity in the past decade. Larger budgets over the years as well as higher enrollment numbers during the recession have required additional administration, leading to higher costs.

Salary increases for CU employees also have outpaced pay of the average workforce because of the amount of education required for a CU employee vs. the average Colorado worker, he said. A portion of the higher pay goes to salaries for medical professionals at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

“We have a talented group of individuals and leadership at the University of Colorado,” Hybl said. “Their pay is competitive, and we’re lucky to have each of them.”

Hybl also pointed out that CU generates an enormous economic impact in the state largely because of the salaries. The CU system pumped $5.3 billion into Colorado’s economy in 2011, according to the university’s most recent economic impact study.

CU regent Sue Sharkey, R-Windsor, who has advocated greater transparency in university administrative pay, also defended the higher pay. She noted that CU represents the state’s flagship higher-learning institution, with the most employees as well as medical and law schools.

“The increase in salaries, I think, in the last several years under President Benson, for the most part have really been contained,” she said.

Sharkey said she believes Colorado’s top academic administrators still may be underpaid compared with their national peers. She said the regents will have to revisit the salaries in the future to see whether they should approve even higher pay.

Benson, a successful oil producer and multi-millionaire turned university president, took a small pay cut, agreeing to drop his salary from $378,000 in 2009 to $359,100 in 2014. In 2009, he was CU’s third-highest-paid administrator. Last year, he ranked sixth.

“If you take a look at their ages, it’s clear that in the next several years, we’re going to be having a turnover in leadership at the university,” Sharkey said. “When that happens, if we’re going to take a look at our peer institutions and what kinds of salaries people are making in those positions, we’re going to be beneath where our peer institutions are.”

In giving raises to university presidents, governing boards often cite peer-group administrators who make more money, but tend to ignore other peers making less money, Vedder said.

“Boards are co-opted often by their ‘friend,’ the president,” Vedder said. “To keep him or her happy and get invited to fancy dinners with famous campus visitors, et cetera, they err in the direction of being generous.

“After all, it isn’t their own money they are spending. No incentives exist to be frugal.”

CU and other schools insist they have taken steps to slow cost increases for in-state students by increasing other revenue. Schools, for instance, have sought to attract international students: In 2013, enrollment totaled nearly 9,000 international students, a record, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.

Colorado’s major research universities are governed by public boards. Here CU President Bruce Benson, center, is shown at a recent Board of Regents meeting. Jonathan Castner/For BizWest

 

CSU’s top 10 earn $2.9 million

Farther north, at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, salaries paid to the top 10 administrators soared to $2.9 million from $1.4 million, a 107 percent uptick in the past 10 years. Salaries paid to CSU system employees overall have increased to $499 million from $343 million, a 45 percent increase during the same period.

2004 2009 2014
Position Salary Position Salary Position Salary
CSU President $404,008 CSU President $493,996 Tony Frank, president, CSU $450,000
CSU-Pueblo President $211,050 CSU Chief Academic Officer $330,000 Michael Martin, chancellor, SYS $435,000
CSU Chief Academic Officer $190,000 CSU-Pueblo President $271,952 Rick Miranda, provost and executive vice president $309,000
CSU Chief Business Officer $179,356 CSU Director of Athletics $259,875 Leslie DiMare, president, CSUP $300,000
CSU Chief Student Affairs Officer $147,420 CSU Chief Information Officer $215,092 Jack Graham, athletic director, CSU $260,000
CSU-Pueblo Chief Academic Officer $122,408 CSU Chief Student Affairs Officer $185,000 Lynn Johnson, chief business officer, CSU $257,500
CSU-Pueblo Chief Business Officer $107,500 CSU Chief Business Officer $185,000 Rich Schweigert, chief financial officer, SYS $240,000
CSU-Pueblo Chief Student Affairs Officer $67,382 CSU Chief PR Officer $150,000 Tom Milligan, vice president of external relations $231,750
N/A CSU Chief Physical Plant Officer $145,500 Patrick Burns, chief information officer, CSU $226,600
N/A CSU-Pueblo Executive Vice President $142,674 Lou Swanson, dean continuing education $191,514
Total employees: 6,202

Total salaries: $343.4 million

Total employees: 7,160

Total salaries: $451.9 million

Total employees: 7,484

Total salaries: $494.4 million

Total: + 21%

Total: + 45%

In 2004, the highest-paid administrator, the president of the university, made $404,000. CSU’s current president, Tony Frank, its highest-paid administrator, made $450,000 this year.

CSU Chancellor Michael Martin makes $435,000 as the fourth-highest-paid administrator in the state. The only administrators making more money than Martin are CU athletic director George, CU Vice Chancellor Richard Krugman at $517,000, and CSU’s Frank.

Martin said data show that CSU offers competitive pay to its administrators and employees.

“We’re rewarding them appropriately because they are good people,” he said. “It’s consistent with what I’ve seen nationally.

“We constantly monitor the national market for three reasons: to be fair, to attract good people when we need them and to keep good people when we have them,” he said.

The CSU system has grown in the past 10 years and the university also maintains a presence in every Colorado county through its extension services, he said.

“Do we pay them too much? The real question is do they earn what we pay them?” he said. “In our case, they all earn what we pay them.”

Administrative costs at CSU likely will continue to increase, including the pay of athletic director when the university replaces Jack Graham, the fifth-highest-paid CSU administrator, who earned $260,000 annually. Frank fired Graham in August.

 

School of Mines’ top 10 earn $2.2 million

At Colorado School of Mines in Golden, compensation to the top 10 administrators rose to $2.2 million from $1.4 million, an increase of 57 percent in the past 10 years. Employee salaries rose to $70 million from $32.6 million, a 116 percent gain.

2004 2009 2014
Position Salary Position Salary Position Salary
President $228,000 President $345,000 Bill Scoggins, president $380,000
Sr. VP for Academic Affairs $164,000 Sr. VP Strategic Enterprise $209,209 Terence Parker, provost $267,300
Sr. VP for Finance & Admin $161,527 Sr. VP for Finance & Admin $192,960 Kirsten Volpi, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer $240,000
Associate VP Academic Affairs $147,610 Academic Department Head, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Trustees Professor $188,929Â Kevin Moore, dean, College of Engineering and Computational Sciences $233,746
V. P. for Student Life $140,241 V. P. Research & Tech Transfer $185,010 Anthony Dean, dean, College of Applied Science and Engineering $233,293
V.P. for Institutional Advancement $137,500 V. P. Student Life $176,814 Ramona Graves, dean, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering $232,727
Dean of Graduate Studies $137,309 Academic Department Head, Chemical Engineering $172,182 John Poate, vice president for Research and Technology Transfer $222,200
Director of Enrollment Management $107,475 Academic Department Head, Geophysics $171,939 Nigel Middleton, senior vice president for Strategic Enterprises $221,900
Director of Academic Computing $103,799 Professor, J.H. Moore Chair $169,847 Terry Young, department head, Geophysics $183,755
Director of Facilities Management $103,000 Professor, AMAX Chair $168,076 Roel Snieder, W.M. Keck distinguished professor of Basic Exploration Science $179,366
Total employees: 565

Total salaries: $32.6 million

Total employees: 669

Total salaries: $51.6 million

Total employees: 849

Total salaries: $70.4 million

Total: + 50%

Total: + 116%

top_salaries_cu_admin

At Mines, the president made $228,000 as the top administrator in 2004. President Bill Scoggins made $380,000 this year as the No. 1 administrator, an increase of 67 percent.

Enrollment grew to 5,600 students this year from 3,600 10 years ago, leading to proportionate growth in full-time employees, Mines Chief of Staff Peter Han said. The university also has had to pay salaries that match those offered by private industry in more lucrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“With enrollment growing and research growing, we’ve had to make significant increases in staff, faculty, facilities,” he said. “That’s probably one of the bigger drivers of the big increase in total salaries over that period of time.”

Han previously told BizWest that the decrease in state funding limited Mines’ ability to hire additional faculty to match increased student enrollment.

BizWest’s analysis indicates that Mines increased its number of employees to 849 in 2014 from 565 in 2004, a 50-percent uptick.

 

UNC’s top 10 earn $1.8 million

At the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, salaries to the 10 highest-paid administrators rose to $1.8 million from $1.3 million, or 38 percent, during the past 10 years. Salaries paid to all employees increased to $100 million from $73 million, a 37 percent uptick. In 2004, the UNC president made $160,000 as its highest-paid administrator. UNC president Kay Norton made $277,500 as the highest-paid administrator this year, a 73 percent increase.

2004 2009 2014
Position Salary Position Salary Position Salary
President $160,000 President $212,500 Kay Norton, president $277,500
Interim Provost/Vice President Academic Affairs $148,000 Provost $190,800 Robbyn Wacker, provost & chief academic officer $224,194
Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs $140,000 Vice President for Administration $175,100 Michelle Quinn, senior VP for Finance and CFO $207,763
Dean of College of Business $130,000 Dean, College of Business $140,000 Vicki Gorrell, VP for Development & Alumni Relations $183,855
Vice President of Administration $128,000 Dean, Natural & Health Sciences $139,000 Dan Satriana, VP and General Counsel $174,720
Interim Associate Dean $120,425 Dean, Performing & Visual Arts $137,000 Kristin Klopfenstein, Executive Director of Education Innovation Institute $167,632
Dean of the College of Education $115,500 AVP for Academic Affairs/Graduate School $135,000 Jeanette Van Galder, AVP for Information Technology $150,814
Dean of College of Performance and Visual Arts $111,250 Dean, Education & Behavioral Sciences $135,000 Don Gudmundson, Dean/Professor, Monfort College of Business $148,104
Vice President of University Advancement $110,000 Dean, Humanities & Social Sciences $135,000 Eugene Sheehan, Dean of the College of Education & Behavioral Science $147,985
Assistant Vice President of Auxiliary Services $109,502 Vice President, University Advancement $135,000 Chuck Leonhardt, VP for University Advancement $146,002
Total employees: 1,325

Total salaries: $73.1 million

Total employees: 1,535

Total salaries: $86.1 million

Total employees: 1,686

Total salaries: $100 million

Total: + 27%

Total: + 37%

Beyond base pay, top administrators such as Norton earn even more in benefits such as housing and retirement contributions.

“This was base pay,” UNC spokesman Nate Haas said about the nearly $278,000 that Norton made last year. “It didn’t include supplemental pay – deferred compensation of $54,500 and housing allowance of $46,000 – or benefits.”

Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-232-3147, 303-630-1968 or slynn@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveLynnBW.

 

Despite recession-era budget cuts, Colorado’s top university officials awarded themselves handsome salary increases and went on a hiring spree

As Colorado staggered under the weight of the great recession, the state’s major research universities were dramatically boosting salaries and adding thousands of employees to payrolls.

At the same time, the schools told state lawmakers they were barely able to make ends meet because of state budget cuts.

During the decade from 2004 to 2014, top academic administrators saw their paychecks rise as much as 100 percent, while average salaries rose 24 percent for all wage earners in the state.

During that same decade, pay to all employees at Colorado’s major research universities also skyrocketed, as the institutions added thousands of employees, according to an analysis by BizWest.

In 2004, the president of the University of Colorado system made $400,000, the most of any employee of a major Colorado research university at the time. Ten years later, CU athletic director Richard George ranks as the highest-paid administrator in the state, making $700,000 in 2014.

Self-awarded raises

Administrators “control the budget, and they award themselves,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “Parents forced to swallow tuition increases are paying for very expensive administrators.”

Earnings of Colorado’s top academic administrators outpaced the growth in the average compensation for other university administrators statewide, which has increased by close to 24 percent during the past 10…