June 9, 2023
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Rochon’s compensation outpaces faculty salaries

Ithaca College President Tom Rochon’s salary ranks among the highest when compared to those of presidents at similar colleges, while faculty salaries trail behind.

In a study recently released by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rochon ranked third in total compensation in a peer group of the presidents of 12 comparable colleges such as Bradley University and Drake University. Using the same peer group, Ithaca College full professors ranked sixth, associate professors ranked fifth, assistant professors ranked ninth and instructors ranked fifth in salary. Jonah Newman, The Chronicle of Higher Education database reporter, said the peer group is determined by data from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

In 2010, Rochon ranked 242 on total compensation against 519 other private college presidents, according to The Chronicle’s annual report of executive compensation at private colleges. He ascended to 145 out of 517 private colleges after receiving a 12.2 percent raise in 2011.

The college’s 990 form submitted to the Internal Revenue Service indicates Rochon’s 12.2 percent raise resulted in a total compensation of $557,053 that year. The second-highest-paid official at the college, Carl Sgrecci, former vice president of finance and administration, received $238,246. The president declined to comment on his salary.

Faculty and staff received a 2.5 percent general merit increase in 2012–13, and two consecutive years prior to that, they received a 3 percent general merit salary increase.

Last August, Rochon presented an initiative called “Under 3 Over 3,” which is intended to keep the annual cost increase for students at less than 3 percent, while maintaining salary increases at a 3 percent or higher rate.

Rochon began his term as president in June 2008 and did not receive a full-year’s salary that year. However, since 2009, his salary has increased by $149,463. The average full professor salary has increased by $5,300, the average associate professor salary has increased by $3,200, the average assistant professor salary increased by $3,000 and the average instructor salary has decreased by $600 during the same period.

Thomas Grape, chair of the Board of Trustees, said some ranking reports can be misleading because they typically use tax numbers as opposed to actual income received.

“Sometimes there are big bumps from one year to the next, and there might be a decline in the following year,” he said. “So I take any one year with a grain of salt. It really is important to look at a longer-term picture, which is what the trustees [do].”

This graph shows presidential compensations compared to faculty salaries in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s peer group. Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

Nancy Pringle, vice president and general counsel of the Office of Legal Affairs, said in setting the president’s compensation, the board of trustees examines data from comparable institutions. They also evaluate the increment in salary given to employees for the year, and they assess general merit, she said. However, Pringle said the peer groups used by the board are not public.

The Chronicle reported full professors, associate professors and instructors at the college placed above the median salary among 1,251 institutions in 2011–12. Assistant professors fell in the 48th percentile, below the median, according to the report. Average salary for assistant professors at the college is $59,700, which is $6,800 more than the average instructor salary of $52,900. The piece indicates, on average, full professors at the college make $21,100 more than associate professors. The Chronicle used data provided by the American Association of University Professors.

Some administrators at the college, however, point to flaws in The Chronicle’s peer group. Eric Maguire, vice president of enrollment and communication, said religiously affiliated institutions in the group could potentially not be comparable to the college.

“I am kind of surprised to see so many religiously affiliated institutions and reverends listed there,” he said. “[They] obviously have lower salaries and have a bit of a different salary structure than most of the non-affiliated private [schools], so in that regard it was not entirely an ‘apples-to-apples’ piece.”

The Chronicle’s peer group includes five clergymen, and two of them don’t receive a salary. Ithaca College is also the largest institution in the peer group, with a student population of 6,760. The second-largest college has a 6,080 student population.

The Ithacan created an alternative peer group using institutions from the New American Colleges and Universities group to address these issues. Though the college ended its membership last year, it has often used NACU members in the past for institutional comparisons.

Pringle said the college left the group because over the years, membership has changed to include smaller institutions that are less similar to the college.

“The institutions in the NACU, they began to be smaller institutions than us, and it began to feel like we were almost in a place where we were not able to compare ourselves apples to apples,” she said.

The NACU-based peer group takes into account factors such as size, selectivity and programs offered. The new list of similar institutions only includes those that were NACU members when the college actively used the group for comparison.

This graph shows presidential compensations compared to faculty salaries in the NACU-based peer group.

In the new peer group, Rochon placed third out of 10 in total compensation compared to presidents of similar private colleges, falling under Quinnipiac University and Drake University. Rochon’s salary is $47,489 above the peer group’s median. The average salary of full professors ranks fifth, associate professors ranks third, assistant professors ranks seventh and instructors ranks fourth when compared to faculty salaries in the same peer group. Overall, the median faculty salary ranks sixth.

Asma Barlas, professor and program director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, said when she first arrived to the college in 1991, the faculty were among the lowest paid in peer groups used at the time, while the president had a higher salary than the president of Cornell University. Since then, she said, there have been attempts to make things more equitable, but several public rankings, in addition to The Chronicle’s and The Ithacan’s, don’t show much progress.

“I am not sure that IC’s version of equity has worked well,” she said. “The president of the college is making an outrageous amount, even as he is leaning on the rest of the college to cut costs.”

Peter Rothbart, chair of the Faculty Council, said there are many factors to consider when comparing the college to other institutions.

“The key issue is how you define what the common value is,” he said. “Is it size of the school, does it focus on teaching versus scholarship … ? We’re considered a master’s degree school, we’re also considered a comprehensive college, that’s another group, so these things are always, always imperfect.”

As a member of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, the college conducts annual faculty surveys to track salary and analyze how it compares to other institutions, Mark Coldren, associate vice president of human resources, said. Two years ago, the college conducted a more extensive survey to verify whether salary adjustments were needed. The college declined to release results of the survey or to indicate what institutions were used for comparison.

“That is always the job of the college, and whether it is the provost working with the deans to try to say, ‘OK, here is what the market data says, here is what we are paying,’” Coldren said. “If we are behind, [we decide what we are] going to do about it.”

Rothbart said the survey addresses how faculty salaries should be increased.

“The president has committed to his ‘Under 3 Over 3’ plan, I believe, in an attempt to address that issue,” he said. “Whether it’ll succeed at that or not, we’ll see.”

Chief Proof Reader Kira Maddox contributed reporting to this article.