Knapp’s compensation nears $1 million mark

University President Steven Knapp earned $895,305 in 2008 during his second year as GW president, according to a University financial disclosure document.

The Form 990, which reports salaries by the calendar year, shows that including $88,496 in benefits, Knapp’s total compensation in 2008 was $983,801. At approximately $74,600 per month, the salary is a steep increase from the $298,178 Knapp earned during his first five months at GW in 2007.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith said a Board of Trustees compensation committee determined the salary using information from an independent consulting firm, which included data from comparable universities and took Knapp’s skills and experience into account.

Knapp’s salary is ultimately approved by the Board.

Paul Fain, a senior reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education who specializes in university executive compensation, said he would not classify Knapp as one of the highest-paid university presidents in the country, but added that he was “getting near the top.”

The factors that contribute to a higher salary include the prestige of the school, its location and the seniority a university official brings to the position, Fain said. Knapp previously served as the provost for Johns Hopkins University.

Although Fain said it can be difficult to draw comparisons among university presidents’ salaries, he added that it was safe to say Knapp makes more than most of the Ivy League university presidents. The presidents of Yale University, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania made more than $1 million during the 2007-2008 fiscal year, according to the Chronicle, but Knapp exceeded the salaries of the presidents of Harvard University, Princeton University, Brown University, Cornell University, and Dartmouth College.

“Compensation of college presidents has gotten very controversial,” Fain said. “Tuition is tough for a lot of people and GW has certainly had issues with that. I can see the optics being a challenge.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education annually lists salaries of university presidents. The most recent data available is for the 2007-2008 fiscal year, but if Knapp’s salary was compared to those figures, he would be the 16th highest-paid president at a private university.

Fain said such a high salary for a second-year president was not entirely surprising, considering who Knapp succeeded.

“He was filling shoes of a long-serving president who was fairly well-compensated,” Fain said, referring to former president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

Trachtenberg – who served for 19 years – earned $691,204 during his final full year as president in 2006 and received nearly $3.5 million plus benefits in 2007, The Hatchet previously reported.

Russell Ramsey, chairman of the Board of Trustees, wrote in an e-mail that the Board looked for the highest quality leader when they were recruiting a new president.

“President Knapp’s compensation reflects his three decades of higher education experience, track record of innovation and commitment to academic rigor,” Ramsey said. “The Board feels our compensation levels are competitive with universities of our caliber.”

Ramsey called Knapp’s executive leadership “key to the growth and success of the University,” which Fain said was an important factor to consider.

“Stable leadership is important and any president is a big part of that,” Fain added. “You want to pay enough to keep someone.”

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