Since Arkansas’ public colleges and universities submitted their reports of administrators’ compensation for the 2013 fiscal year, the second highest paid academic executive has been fired for incompetence.
That’s one of the most striking things I found in a compilation of all the reports by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Since Act 321 of 2009 became law, each institution must submit to ADHE by July 1 a listing of every employee classified as executive, administrative or managerial whose total compensation package was at least $100,000 the previous year.
The latest report for the year that ended last June 30 included 683 names. The first report, which covered fiscal 2010, contained 460 names. That’s a 44 percent increase in the number of college administrators making at least $100,000, similar to the growth in numbers of administrative positions on college campuses nationwide.
From the 2012-13 comprehensive report I compiled a database of administrators making at least $150,000 — 265 people. Of those, the University of Arkansas’ flagship at Fayetteville employs 118, and Arkansas State University at Jonesboro had 33.
Skewing the results is the state’s classification of coaches as administrators because Arkansas has some highly paid coaches. As I pointed out last week, UAF head football coach Bret Bielema’s $5 million total compensation package is higher than the top 15 academic administrators put together.
If you rank all administrators listed in the report, the top 10 are all coaches or athletic administrators, and 15 of the top 25 are.
But for this study I’ve put aside the coaches’ salary lines and used the database to compile a list of the most highly paid academic administrators.
Keep in mind that total compensation includes everything given to an employee in return for his or her services, whether it comes from public funds or private sources. That includes salary and bonuses, fringe benefits such as health and life insurance and retirement contributions, housing allowance, a vehicle, club dues — anything of value. Deferred compensation is listed on the report but not as part of the total package.
Topping the list was Eli Jones, dean of the UAF Sam M. Walton College of Business. His overall compensation, $509,566, ranked 11th overall.
The second highest paid administrator was Brad Choate, who had already been relieved as UAF’s vice chancellor for university advancement well before the 2013 report was submitted. In fact, he was later fired as a result of a 2-year budget deficit of more than $4 million in his division.
Nevertheless, his total compensation that final year was $417,984, including $185,865 from the private UA Foundation. Most of that was classified as “executive salary supplements,” commonly used to increase a top administrator’s salary.
Budgeted positions, as approved in legislative appropriations, have line-item maximums, but state law also allows each institution to pay up to 25 percent above that level for 10 percent of its employees. Choate’s line-item maximum was already relatively high, $204,886.
On the other hand, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro had a line-item of $185,667 for its chancellor position but invoked the 25 percent rule to add $46,417 For Tim Hudson’s first full year’s salary. With private funds his total compensation package was worth $362,868.
Choate ranked just above both of his then-bosses — Don Bobbitt, president of the UA system, and David Gearhart, UAF chancellor.
Comparing compensation packages listed in the 2010 and 2013 reports isn’t really possible because so many of the incumbents changed in that span.
For example, Charles Welch, now ASU president, was making $222,638 as president at Henderson State University. His total package now is about $165,000 higher and about $41,000 more than his predecessor, Les Wyatt, was making.
Robert Potts, then ASU-Jonesboro chancellor, was making $294,196, well short of Hudson’s 2012 package.
Bobbitt replaced President Alan Sugg, whose compensation in 2010 totaled $354,862, almost $50,000 less than the current chief executive. Gearhart, one administrator still in the same position, has had a relatively modest increase of just under $21,000. However, the latest report also shows $225,000 in deferred compensation from the UA Foundation.
A big jump in pay also went to Glendell Jones, who made $167,893 as a senior associate vice chancellor at ASU-J. Last year he made almost $121,000 more in his first year as Welch’s successor at Henderson.
Below are the 25 academic administrators who had the highest compensation packages according to the 2013 report (first number is the total, the second shows the amount of private funds, if any, included).
1. Eli Jones, UAF, dean of business — $509,566, $157,162.
2. Brad Choate, UAF, vice chancellor — $417,984, $185,865.
3. Don Bobbitt, UA, president — $402,320, 0.
4. G. David Gearhart, UAF, chancellor — $382,038, $87,028.
5. Charles Welch, ASU, president — $372,227, $4,033.
6. Tim Hudson, ASU-J, chancellor — $362,868, $56,043.
7. Donald O. Peterson, UAF, vice chancellor for finance and administration — $338,337, $78,366.
8. Sharon L. Gaber, UAF, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs — $336,289, $48,867.
9. Chris Wyrick, UAF, vice chancellor for university advancement — $324,463, $71,786.
10. Mark J. Cochran, UAF, vice president for agriculture — $316,667, $36,979.
11. Becky Panitz-Danks, Northwest Arkansas Community College, president — $305,317, $65,140.
12. Robert Brown, Arkansas Tech, president — $289,250, $7,800.
13. Anne O’Leary-Kelly, UAF, associate dean of business — $288,646, $48,571.
14. Glendell Jones, Henderson, president — $288,604, 0.
15. Jim M. Rankin, UAF, vice provost for research and economic development — $280,894, $42,762.
16. Bob McMath, UAF, dean of the Honors College — $280,533, $34,544.
17. Thomas C. Courtway, Central Arkansas, president — $276,758, 0.
18. Joel E. Anderson, UALR, chancellor — $274,609, $8,400.
19. Paul B. Beran, UAFS, chancellor — $273,834, $24,152.
20. Michael Moore, UAF, vice president for academic affairs — $273,579.
21. Barbara A. Goswick, UAF, vice president for academic affairs — $267,907.
22. Stacy L. Leeds, UAF, dean of law —$267,761, $15,391.
23. Michael Vayda, UAF, dean of agricultural, food and life sciences — $264,777, $18,396.
24. David F. Rankin, Southern Arkansas, president — $263,231, 0.
25. Gary D. Ferrier, UAF, associate dean of business — $260,093, 0.
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Roy Ockert is editor emeritus of The Jonesboro Sun. He may be reached by email at email@example.com.