By: Yechiel Schwab  | 

Financial Efficiency within Presidential and Administrative Salaries

Earlier this month, The Chronicle of Higher Education released its annual survey of university presidents’ salaries. The survey revealed that Yeshiva University’s President Richard Joel amassed $2.6 million in 2013, despite the fact that the university was struggling financially and continues to grapple with ongoing budget troubles and financial cuts. This salary places Joel as the 4th highest paid university president in the nation out of 497 universities surveyed. News organizations from The New York Times to The Forward and Forbes commented on the incongruous relationship between President Joel’s salary and our University’s ongoing financial trouble. Yeshiva responded in a statement that this 2013 salary represents an anomaly for President Joel, who received payout for six years of deferred compensation in 2013, resulting in an unusually large sum[1]. Further, they noted that President Joel generously took a $100,000 pay-cut in 2014, and an additional $50,000 pay-cut this year.

In this light, President Joel’s salary remains far less egregious, and indeed, his voluntary pay-cuts are commendable. However, even with these pay-cuts, and detracting a one-time payout, President Joel’s annual salary, including bonuses and average deferred compensation, still exceeds $1,000,000. Accruing a salary to the tune of $1,000,000 and above is a distinction held by only 31 other presidents in the nation. In fact, the median presidential salary barely exceeds $400,000. Further, in the Forward’s recent survey of Jewish non-profit leaders, President Joel’s base pay ranked 4th, and when accounting for annual bonuses, President Joel ranks first among these Jewish non-profit leaders.

Much ink has been spilled, both in this paper and others, condemning President Joel’s large salary. The purpose of this article is not to add my voice to the (rightfully deserved) cacophony, but rather to look towards the future.

As our university continues to identify new paths to cut costs, I encourage our decision-makers to examine the administrative salaries listed in our yearly 990 Tax Form. This list documents our University’s highest paid employees, including more than a dozen administrators earning over $400,000. Comfortingly, half of these salaries, and many of the largest, belong to Einstein administrators, whose salaries will soon be paid by a different institution. But a significant number of continuing Yeshiva employees still earned hefty salaries in 2013, and more high-earning administrators who have been hired or promoted since 2013 will likely appear on future forms. Though none of these salaries match President Joel’s outlandish 2013 sum, or even his yearly average of $1,000,000, a mission-driven University which hasn’t offered faculty raises in over five years while decreasing faculty pension plans and cutting professors, courses and athletics teams, should display similar frugality with its administrative salaries.

The University will soon structure a new presidential contract for its incoming president. Beyond simply accounting for the ubiquitous outcry over President Joel’s salary, we must factor in the changing nature of our university. Even ignoring the ongoing cuts and efficiency-measures that the administration has enacted, the separation from Einstein alone will halve our university’s budget. With only 32 universities nationwide paying their presidents a total of $1,000,000 annually, a smaller and tighter Yeshiva University, without a medical school and without inefficient excess, does not belong on this list. Our undergraduate education, the core of our University, must remain both our fiscal and axiological priority and our future President, and his or her salary, should embody this focus.

[1] President Joel’s compensation package, similar to many university presidents, consists of three main sums: 1- His base pay, of around $700,000. 2- Other compensations, which includes benefits like a University subsidized home or driver, which totaled over $300,000. 3- A deferred compensation plan of $255,000 a year, but of which President Joel only receives payment for at the fulfillment of his contract. In 2013, President Joel received this deferred compensation, which had matured over six years, accumulating to over $1.5 million. Note that many of the other top ten salaried presidents received similarly large portions from bonuses or deferred compensation plans.