Shawn Vestal: Million Dollar Salary for WSU’s Schulz Not What It Seems
In a time of financial sacrifice and declining enrollment, the latest news about Washington State University President Kirk Schulz was sure to turn heads.
His official base salary, as reported by the state’s Office of Financial Management, jumped 52%, from $ 625,000 to $ 952,600 between 2019 and 2020. He was ranked in August 11th. rank on Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of highest paid public education presidents. colleges, a ranking that places his total compensation at just over $ 1 million, which would make him one of 16 presidential millionaires at public universities.
And it all happened in the wake of Schulz’s announcements in recent years that he was accepting pay cuts, waiving retention increases, and returning two cars he had been provided with – decisions he made in light of the continued efforts by the university to reduce budgets.
What in the world?
It seemed like a sign of outrageous hypocrisy.
But this is not, for once, a case of skyrocketing administrative salaries, and the two seemingly contradictory images actually add up. It’s an offshoot left by WSU’s old decision to buy a condo in downtown Seattle for the President’s use, the university’s later decision to sell that condo – and a huge tax bill. that bounced off Schulz from it all.
“That was before Kirk,” said Marty Dickinson, chairman of the WSU board. “It wasn’t really about Kirk.”
Schulz’s $ 1 million year was actually the product of a one-time payment to help cover that nearly $ 356,000 tax liability. Next year, his base salary will return to the same level as it has been for several years: $ 625,000.
Additionally, Schulz has suffered pay cuts – 5% in each of the past two years on his base pay – and waived two annual retention bonuses of $ 25,000 each, she said.
“He definitely suffered a pay cut,” she said. “He was one of the first university presidents to come forward” and do so.
The 2004 purchase of the Seattle condominium apartment, at Bell Street and First Avenue in downtown, preceded both Schulz and his predecessor, Elson Floyd, who relied on this apartment and a Seattle car. to visit the West Side. Floyd, a popular and ambitious figure whose tenure was marked by great accomplishments and a heap of debt, passed away in 2015. He set the WSU on the path to opening a medical school and moved on. capitalized on deficit spending in athletics – and when Schulz finished, there was a large budget deficit.
Schulz launched a campus-wide effort to make cuts in every department (not counting football, naturally) and eliminated a $ 30 million budget deficit; the pandemic has sparked another wave of cost-cutting efforts at school.
The Seattle condo and car were purchased as part of an effort to plant a larger WSU flag on the West Side, to boost fundraising and attract potential students, and the argument was that the president should be there enough to justify the expense. When Schulz took over, he neither wanted nor felt he needed the equipment, nor did he use it, said Phil Weiler, WSU vice president of marketing and communications.
In February of this year, the regents sold the Seattle property, which they bought for $ 825,000, for $ 920,000.
“From the Board of Regents perspective, having a condo in downtown Seattle didn’t make a lot of sense,” Dickinson said.
The condo and car should have been considered taxable employee benefits, although Schulz hasn’t paid tax on them since he was hired in 2016.
The regents voted to cover unpaid taxes and liability, which seems fair. That payment of $ 355,748, on top of Schulz’s nearly $ 597,000 base salary – his actual base of $ 625,000 minus the 5% voluntary cut – were the main factors that placed him in 11th place. on this Chronicle of Higher Education list. (It also included social benefits related to housing, travel, etc.)
This list is, in many ways, a chronicle of excesses and the arms race of rising administrative salaries. Fifteen college presidents at taxpayer-funded institutions other than Schulz exceeded $ 1 million in total compensation. 20 others won between $ 800,000 and $ 999,000, and 80 others between $ 500,000 and $ 799,000.
Universities are good at justifying increasing spending on administrative salaries by catching up with the Joneses – the same justification for never bringing football costs under control – and the ranks of presidential millionaires in public schools will no doubt swell.
But Schulz is not in those ranks, and the story of his paychecks is actually quite different. Having foregone his retention increases, his base salary is the same Floyd earned in his senior year. Schulz’s total compensation in the year leading up to the tax payments – base salary plus everything else – was $ 710,674.
That number would place it at 60, not 11, on the Chronicle of Higher Ed list.
Under his current agreement, next year’s pay will be the same.