UI administrator pay increases almost double national average

BY BEN MARKS | APRIL 08, 2015 5:00 AM

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Across the nation, faculty and administrators at public universities have seen steady paycheck gains. However, the University of Iowa’s top administrators received increases at nearly double the national average, as well as the highest in the state.

Each year, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources conducts national surveys on university faculty and administrator salaries.

This year, the survey found administrators at doctorate-granting public universities, such as the UI, received average pay increases of 2.5 percent in 2014, only slightly lower than the previous year’s 2.6 percent.

According to the Iowa Legislature’s State Employee Salary Book, however, the university’s top seven administrators — including President Sally Mason, Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard, and Provost P. Barry Butler — saw average salary gains of 4.8 percent in 2014.

With Robillard’s salary removed, however, that average drops to 2.8 percent, much closer to the national average.

Iowa State’s top administrator average pay increase is 3.6 percent, while the University of Northern Iowa’s is 2.4 percent.

Trevor Glanz, the UI compensation and classification administrator, said that up until 2011, the university’s salary system was based on an outdated, inaccurate, and “internally focused” model.

“We were the last, or one of the last schools in the Big Ten, to change our focus to look at the external market,” Glanz said.

For 30 years, Glanz said salaries were increased yearly without looking other colleges or the market of higher education. After a while, he said this led to inaccurate and uncompetitive salaries.

Four years ago, however, the system was revamped, and now salaries are based on a combination of yearly performance increases, as well as market prices, which, he said, caused the above-average increase.

“There’s a very good economic principle behind this,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said. “It’s expensive to recruit people. With the salaries being competitive, it’s also important to retain good people, because if someone leaves for a better offer somewhere else, then you have the cost of recruiting someone new.”

The state of the economy plays a large role in how college salaries are determined, said David Frisvold, a UI assistant professor of economics.

“At public universities, [the economy] is going to affect the allocation of state revenues,” he said. “The overall state economy is going to affect the rate tuition goes up, and how much financial aid colleges supply to students.”

How their revenue is affected, Frisvold said, determines how much funds they have available for raises and hiring retention.

Although Mason earned around $526,000 this year, among the top administrators, Robillard has been the outlier, consistently earning the highest salary of the top administrators for the past five years, and collecting a paycheck of $706,000 this year.

The reason for Robillard’s high paycheck and pay increases, 11.3 percent last year, is because of his unusual position, Moore said.

“There aren’t many people like him out there,” he said. “Not every university is going to have a position like his, where he oversees the College of Medicine and the university hospital.”

According to College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, faculty pay increases didn’t lag very far behind administrator ones, with the average being 2.3 percent.

As a whole, the UI’s overall average salary increase this year was between 2 and 3 percent, Glanz said, placing directly in the average nationally, as well as for the Big Ten.

Ultimately, Glanz said, high salaries come down to getting good people.

“If you want some high-level person to come to Iowa, sometimes it just takes a little more,” he said.

Administration pay

Seven University of Iowa administrators’ 2014 base pay compared with their positions’ national average:

UI President Sally Mason: $525,828 National average: $450,000
Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard: $705,960 National average: $648,336
Provost P. Barry Butler: $409,744 National average: $336,563
Senior Vice President and Treasurer Douglas True: $407,313 National average: $276,861
General Counsel Carroll Reasoner: $281,365 National average: $231,585
Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin: $249,105 National average: $212,665
Vice President for Human Resources Sue Buckley: $242,227 National average: $172,199

Sources: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources and the Iowa Legislature State Employee Salary Book

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