ATHENS — The more than $300,000 annual compensation approved for Athens State University's new president is 19.6% higher than his predecessor's and follows what an expert says is a trend of growing pay for college leaders.
Philip Way, appointed the school’s 37th president in an 8-0 vote last month by the university’s board of trustees, will receive a compensation package of $323,584 a year, about $53,000 more than the previous president's total pay, according to figures provided by the university.
Wray's compensation includes a salary of $280,000, according to his employment agreement. He’ll also receive additional compensation equal to 5 percent of his base salary per year for retirement purposes to be placed in a separate retirement account.
The compensation package includes a $7,800 automobile allowance, $7,000 for utilities, $2,400 for cable, $9,000 for life insurance, $14,000 in deferred compensation for retirement, and $3,384 in additional family health insurance.
The $323,584 figure reported by the school doesn't include other benefits Way's contract provides such as housing, up to $12,000 in service club dues and an allowance for entertainment.
The university also will provide Way with family health insurance in accordance with the university’s employer-provided plans and he’s entitled to other employment benefits such as participation in the state’s retirement system and in the employer-provided disability insurance plan and accumulation and use of annual, sick and personal leave.
Way, who has been provost and vice president for academic and student affairs at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and an interim president there, is expected to begin at Athens State on Aug. 1.
The employment contract requires Way to live in the university’s presidential residence at 209 E. Bryan St. in Athens and, among other provisions in the contract, Way will be reimbursed for moving and storage expenses.
“Athens State University seeks the highest quality talent in an attempt to remain competitive in the industry while making a positive impact on the north Alabama area,” Ronnie Chronister, chairman of Athens State’s board of trustees, said in a statement.
For university positions, “we use CUPA-HR (College and University Professional Association for Human Resources) salary statistics to determine a salary range based on peer institutions, the position’s job duties, and the significance of the role within the institution,” he said.
Chronister said Way’s salary was determined through the consideration of his talents and how they fit with the university’s goals and mission.
“His academic background, combined with his experience in business and leading people, is what appealed to the board during the search process, and we’re very excited to have him join us this fall,” he said.
Andy Brantley, CUPA-HR’s president and CEO, said in a statement, “The role of university president is very challenging with numerous priorities and annual operating budgets that exceed that of many companies. Recruiting and retaining talented individuals to serve in these roles is critically important.”
But James Finkelstein, professor emeritus of Public Policy of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said some contracts for university presidents are “looking more and more like the contracts of an executive of a corporation.”
Finkelstein, who has analyzed university president compensation for 20 years, called the trend “the CEO-ization of the university presidency.”
He said some of the contracts that he and his colleague, Judith Wilde, the chief operating officer and professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government, have reviewed include deferred compensation, which can be “quite substantial,” various forms of bonuses like performance bonuses and one-time payments like signing bonuses, supplemental insurance, and reimbursement for entertainment and travel expenses and moving expenses.
There’s the argument that university presidents are running a large, complex organization and therefore they should be paid as any other executive at a similar-sized company, he said.
“It’s not a powerful argument,” Finkelstein said. “These are institutions that are public. There is no other public executive with the salary, compensation and perks that a university president has. Why is a university president different than any other public executive?”
Way replaces Robert Glenn, who left Athens State in July after 10 years to be the president at University of Houston-Victoria. Glenn’s salary at Athens State was $218,060, according to the university, and his annual compensation was $270,534.51, including a $10,000 bonus.
An article in the Victoria Advocate in May 2018 reported that Glenn’s starting salary at the four-year UH-V was $300,000, with a contractual $25,000 increase at the end of his first full year, based on satisfactory performance.
Athens State is an upper-level university with junior- and senior-level coursework and three master's degree programs. The preliminary enrollment count for last fall was 3,103, according to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
Way’s salary will be reviewed annually by the board of trustees’ compensation subcommittee, which may recommend any changes for consideration by the board, according to the employment contract.
The Chronicle of Higher Education late last year reported on the salaries and compensation of several of Alabama’s university presidents, through 2017.
The report shows Jay Gogue, the former president of Auburn University, who retired in July 2017, received partial-year compensation of about $1.8 million, with base pay of $451,333; Raymond Watts, the president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, had compensation of $889,571, including base pay of $485,297 and bonus pay of $105,000; Stuart Bell, the president of the University of Alabama, had compensation of $768,000 with base pay of $663,000 and bonus pay of $105,000; and Tony Waldrop, president of the University of South Alabama, received compensation of $535,632, with base pay of $486,199.
The salary of the incoming president at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Darren Dawson, will be $498,000, with performance-based incentives of up to $105,000 and an annual vehicle payment of $12,000, according to Ray Garner, chief of staff in the Office of the President at UAH. UAH is a research university with nearly 90 degree programs of study at the undergraduate and graduate level, and its enrollment last fall reached 9,736, according to ACHE.
Dawson will have access to a university-owned residence.