Stevenson University had the highest income disparity between its president — who made $1.49 million in 2009 — and rank-and-file professors, according to a salary survey of hundreds of institutions released Monday by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Kevin J. Manning ranked 15th in compensation among the 519 presidents in the survey. Former Johns Hopkins President William J. Brody ranked second on the overall list, receiving $3.8 million, almost all from his retirement package, in his last year on the job.
The Chronicle used Manning's salary to illustrate a significant gap between executive compensation and salaries given to most university employees, comparing the situation at the private college to the oft-criticized pay packages for CEOs in corporate America. The trend has alarmed faculty, said John Curtis, director of research for the American Association of University Professors.
"This is a time of real austerity at most institutions, with cutbacks in almost every area of operations," Curtis said. "And yet we see these high salaries and retention bonuses and other perks for presidents. It sends the message that the president is more important than the rest of an institution, which really gives an indication that priorities might be out of line."
Manning's compensation was 16 times the average pay of a full professor at Stevenson, the highest president-to-faculty ratio in the country, according to the Chronicle. His compensation represented 1.7 percent of Stevenson's total expenditures for the year, the study said, well above the 0.4 percent average at the institutions surveyed.
Stevenson officials defended Manning's pay, pointing out that the president received a one-time, $1.1 million payout of deferred compensation, which had accumulated over nine years. Such deferred-compensation mechanisms are a common incentive designed to keep university leaders in their jobs over the long term. In 2008, Manning made $623,437, according to the Chronicle survey.
Kevin G. Byrnes, the chairman of Stevenson's board of trustees, said Manning's salary and bonus, minus the deferred compensation package, totaled $357,786 for the survey year. His base salary for the year starting in July 2011 is $305,000, with a bonus yet to be determined.
"I am confident that President Manning's compensation is fair, warranted and reflects his exemplary record of accomplishment and service to the university," Byrnes wrote in a letter to the trustees. "Few institutions of higher learning have come so far in such a short period of time as Stevenson has under the leadership of Kevin Manning."
Manning declined an interview request Monday.
Jack Stripling, who co-wrote the Chronicle article, noted that even Manning's 2008 compensation would be seven times that of an average full-time professor at Stevenson. The typical president of a private college makes 3.7 times as much as an average professor, the report says.
Stripling said he wasn't surprised by the data but was "intrigued" to find that compensation patterns in higher education followed those of the corporate world.
Brody's replacement at Hopkins, Ronald J. Daniels, received $916,634 in 2009. No other president from the state's private colleges received more than $600,000, according to the survey. Wallace D. Loh, president of the state's flagship public university in College Park, entered his job last year with a salary of $450,000.
Manning's advocates say that he has transformed Stevenson. When he arrived in 2000, the institution was still a commuter school known as Villa Julie College. Manning oversaw a name change, the creation of a new campus in Owings Mills and the addition of 1,500 on-campus beds. The university tightened its academic mission, tailoring its programs to the industries where jobs are most in demand.
U.S. News & World Report has routinely ranked Stevenson as one of the best values among private universities, and this year the magazine listed it No. 2 among the top "up-and-coming" regional universities in the North. The cost of attending the university for an on-campus resident is about $32,000 a year. Hopkins, by comparison, costs about $55,000 a year.
Full professors at Stevenson are paid just below the 50th percentile among four-year institutions, according to the association of university professors. Nonetheless, several faculty leaders said they're comfortable with Manning's compensation.
"Stevenson is a great place to be, and we are headed in the complete opposite direction of the vast majority of higher-education institutions in the U.S.," said Art Fifer, an assistant professor of information systems and member of the university's faculty council. "While they are failing and suffering financially, we are not. You should ask why? President Manning has taken us to where we are, and continues to lead us in a positive manner."
Byrnes said the board gives careful consideration to a number of factors when determining Manning's compensation, including the institution's "forward trajectory" and salaries paid by comparable institutions. It also considers input from independent market analysts, an actuary and an executive compensation specialist.
"Among the factors the committee considers are his complex and vital role at Stevenson, our institution's forward trajectory, and presidential salaries paid by comparable institutions," Byrnes wrote in his letter to the trustees. "Additionally, the Executive Committee's decisions are informed by insights provided by independent market analysts, an actuary and an executive compensation specialist."
Stripling said those arguments might be valid.
"That's exactly the role that a board of trustees should be playing," he said. "They're in the best position to judge whether a president has actually transformed the institution."