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December 8, 2005

Chronicle of Higher Education surveys university leaders’ pay

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg ranks 11th on the list of highest-paid leaders of public universities nationally, according to an annual survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

However, the comparison data, published in the Nov. 18 edition, are flawed in part because they compare Nordenberg’s 2003-04 compensation package with other institutional executives’ 2005-06 data and, in some instances, 2004-05 data. In addition, some institutions did not provide total compensation data.

The Chronicle said Pitt did not disclose the most recent compensation data for the survey because the University considers itself a quasi-public institution.

“That is a fabrication,” Pitt spokesperson Robert Hill said. “We answered the Chronicle’s questions by supplying information from the IRS 990 forms since, we believe, those figures, as standard IRS reporting requirements, more readily lend themselves to this type of comparison,” Hill said. “We supplied those figures from the most recent available, that is, from 2003-04.”

The form 990 data that Pitt provides include information on retirement and other benefits, “the most complete information available, while other institutions are all over the place in what they supply,” Hill said. “This is a major flaw in the comparison. This survey really compares apples to oranges. No one can read that survey and have an accurate understanding of what [academic] CEOs make in America.”

The Chronicle’s survey data indicate that Nordenberg in 2003-04 earned a total compensation package from Pitt of $571,305. That included a base salary of $401,500 and other compensation sources of $10,238 in an expense allowance; $8,614 in educational benefits, and $150,953 in benefits and deferred compensation.

For public universities, the Chronicle surveyed the 102 public institutions and systems classified as “doctoral/research universities-extensive” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

The Chronicle defines total executive compensation as the sum of salary, benefits, annualized amounts of deferred income and the full potential amount of bonuses. Expense accounts are included if they are allowances available at the executive’s discretion.

The publication noted that Nordenberg is provided with a residence and automobile, but did not assign dollar amounts to those benefits.

According to the Chronicle survey, the three highest-paid top executives of public universities were Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan system, $724,604; David Roselle, president of the University of Delaware, $720,522, and Mark Yudof, chancellor of the University of Texas System, $693,677. The figure for Delaware’s Roselle is from 2003-04; the other figures are from 2005-06.

Temple President David W. Adamany, with $538,757 in total compensation using 2003-04 figures, ranks 17th.

Judy G. Hample, chancellor of Pennsylvania’s state system, earned $320,913 in 2004-05.

Graham B. Spanier, Penn State president, ranks 25th nationally among public institution executives in the survey, earning $492,000 in total compensation using 2005-06 figures.

According to Hill, the data supplied for Pennsylvania public institution leaders “telescopes the problem with the Chronicle’s comparison.”

Nordenberg’s retirement benefits are included in the $150,953 in “benefits and deferred compensation” figure, Hill pointed out, while data for Penn State, for example, lists only salary and no “other compensation.”

“The majority of the [public] institutions [nationwide] do not provide data on retirement benefits,” Hill said. “If you believe that those institutions are not providing retirement benefits, then you also believe Elvis is alive and living in Cleveland. This survey provides some titillating information related to what CEOs earn, but for comparison’s sake the survey is useless,” Hill said.

According to the Chronicle, citing documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nordenberg, in addition to his institutional compensation, earned at least $55,000 in 2004 for membership on the board of Mellon Financial Corp.

Hill said that Mellon Financial is the only board membership for which Nordenberg is compensated. He did not know what the chancellor earned for Mellon Financial board service in 2005, he said.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 38 Issue 8

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