Study: Administrators earn top dollar

The University employs five of the nearly 300 administrators nationwide who make more than $500,000 per year, according to a survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education scheduled to be released Monday.

The figures stem from 2006-2007 tax filings, the latest available to the public, which require nonprofit companies to disclose top paid employees. The survey, which The Chronicle conducts annually, has received extra attention this year as executive salaries for corporate CEOs and university officials alike come under scrutiny during the country’s economic turmoil.

Dozens of schools have announced pay cuts or freezes, but top administrators have maintained that GW is financially stable and that they do not plan on taking any pay cuts this year.

“We are monitoring the economic situation and are prepared to make adjustments if needed,” Lou Katz, executive vice president and treasurer, wrote in an e-mail. “However, at this time, we will continue to ‘stay the course’ and maintain current salary levels for faculty and staff, including administrators.”

Katz, who ranks 8th in The Chronicle’s list of highest paid chief financial officers, earned $581,642 in 2007. Other top-paid administrators include Chief Investment Officer Don Lindsay at $756,966, Provost John “Skip” Williams at $709,005, engineering professor and Off-Campus Program Director Shahram Sarkani at $600,913, men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs at $543,377, Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak at $445,292 and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman at $419,241.

As part of a $787 billion stimulus package, Obama capped executive salaries at $500,000 for the top five executives at organizations receiving government funds. Students and government officials have both called upon universities who expect to receive stimulus funds to review their executive salaries in light of the economic crisis. Students at New York University, for example, staged a three-day protest last week demanding that their university disclose financial information, including this year’s administrator salaries.

The Chronicle said their study and ranking have received significant attention.

“We have more newspapers calling than we can handle,” said Cynthia Powell, The Chronicle’s public relations director. “There’s definitely a lot of interest.”

Tax filings show that University President Steven Knapp made $571,177 as provost of John Hopkins University in 2007, making him the 6th highest paid chief academic officer in the country at the time, according to the study. Knapp declined to release his salary at GW, saying that the information would be available after the new tax filings are released in May.

Chernak said the University can afford to keep paying its administrators their usual salaries because of the University’s “unique financial situation.” Unlike universities like Harvard, which depends on its endowment for nearly a third of expenses, profits from GW’s endowment only account for 5 percent of the University’s budget.

In addition, Chernak said that GW’s fundraising has remained the same as last year, about $90 million, despite the worsening recession.

“The situation at GW is a blessing and a curse,” Chernak said. “But we are benefiting from not being as dependent on the endowment and fundraising as other schools.”

Chernak, who has been employed at GW for more than two decades, said he personally opposed asking administrators to take pay cuts.

“There’s no reason to start asking people to take cuts in salaries when things are relatively stable,” Chernak said. “I’m of the opinion that there are other ways to give back.”

Chernak said he and his wife decided to donate $25,000 to the Smith Center renovations last month, a gift they chose because the funds would be matched by the Smith-Kogod foundation.

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