Livesay pay high among like colleges: Bryan's president gets more than twice the national median

Livesay pay high among like colleges: Bryan's president gets more than twice the national median

July 6th, 2014 by Kevin Hardy in Local Regional News

POLL: Is Bryan College President Stephen Livesay paid too much?

HOW BRYAN COMPARES

Here's a look at presidential pay at comparable colleges in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, to which Bryan College belongs.

Reinhardt University, Waleska, Ga.

Presidential pay: $261,964

Institutional revenue: $25.4 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,230

Bryan College, Dayton, Tenn.

Presidential pay: $258,912

Institutional revenue: $17.6 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 700

Columbia College, Columbia, S.C.

Presidential pay: $206,987

Institutional revenue: $32.9 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,088

Tennessee Wesleyan College, Athens, Tenn.

Presidential pay: $201,675

Institutional revenue: $24.5 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,106

Milligan College, Johnson City, Tenn.

Presidential pay: $200,933

Institutional revenue: $34.2 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 957

Truet-McConnell College, Cleveland, Ga.

Presidential pay: $192,471

Institutional revenue: $14.6 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 950*

Montreat College, Montreat, N.C.

Presidential pay: $150,611

Institutional revenue: $21 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 388

Point University, West Point, Ga.

Presidential pay: $149,513

Institutional revenue: $23.8 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,483

Union College, Barbourville, Ky.

Presidential pay: $146,914

Institutional revenue: $20.8 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 781

Virginia Intermont College, Bristol, Va.

Presidential pay: $142,323

Institutional revenue: $21 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 496

St. Andrews Presbyterian College, Laurinburg, N.C.

Presidential pay: $109,134

Institutional revenue: $19.9 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 600

Sources: College tax filings, U.S. News and World Report and college websites. Enrollment figures represent on-campus, traditional students and may be approximate.

*estimated figure based on school website which says enrollment is nearing 1,000

AREA PRESIDENTIAL PAY

Here's a look at presidential pay at area private colleges:

Bryan College

Presidential pay: $258,912

Revenue: $17.6 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 700

Covenant College

Presidential pay: $211,242

Revenue: $41.3 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,050

Lee University

Presidential pay: $325,645

Revenue: $83.6 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,565

Tennessee Temple

Presidential pay: $174,800

Revenue: $8.3 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 400

University of the South

Presidential pay: $580,782

Revenue: $104.7 million

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,478

Sources: College tax filings, U.S. News and World Report and college websites. Enrollment figures represent on-campus, traditional students and may be approximate.

Bryan College president Stephen Livesay introduces speaker Scott Rasmussen at an event earlier this year.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

While the financial bottom dropped out at Bryan College, its president took in up to twice as much pay as his peers at comparable institutions.

In recent years, dwindling enrollment at Bryan has led to layoffs, cuts in staff retirement and reductions in scholarships. In May, President Stephen Livesay announced he would eliminate 20 positions, more than one-tenth of the school's full-time workers.

That same month, Livesay went further, announcing a pay cut for himself and his top lieutenants. More than a year before, he took a 50 percent pay cut for six months.

Still, Livesay remains well compensated when compared to other private schools with similar enrollments and budgets, according to a Times Free Press review of private college tax filings.

Livesay's 2013 total compensation of $258,912 -- including a base salary of $223,918 -- was the second- highest of any college president in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, to which Bryan belongs. And that salary represented a significant reduction in pay from his 2012 total compensation of $313,006.

To be sure, Livesay's pay is nowhere near what the nation's top private college presidents earn. But even among institutions with far more revenue and enrollment, Livesay ranks among the better compensated.

His salary tops that of former Covenant College President Niel Nelson, who made $211,242 leading an institution with double Bryan's revenue and an enrollment of 1,050 students. Bryan has about 700 traditional students on its Dayton campus.

Livesay's total 2012 pay approached that of Lee University President Paul Conn, who is paid $325,645, though the Cleveland school has seven times Bryan's enrollment and more than four times its revenue.

With ongoing cuts and controversy brewing on the campus around his decision-making, Livesay has come under fire from faculty, students and alumni of the nondenominational school. Bryan has seen an exodus of faculty and staff since he pushed for a clarification to its statement of faith that narrowed Bryan's stance on human creation.

And fed up with multiple leadership issues, faculty approved an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Livesay this spring.

His salary only adds to the resentment. A national expert on college president compensation says that is typical.

"For faculty, it particularly irks them," said William G. Tierney, a professor at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, who studies college executive compensation.

It can seem contradictory to freeze faculty wages while presidents make seemingly exorbitant wages, he said, but it's a buyers market for college presidencies.

"I do think that presidents also have a symbolic role to play, a symbolic but real role to play," Tierney said. "When an institution is in fiscal duress, it's hard to say, 'We need to tighten our belts,' if I don't tighten my belt."

•••

While working in Bryan's advancement department, David Beisner began examining fundraising numbers in the college's tax forms, which are publicly available documents. He was immediately struck by the compensation of the president and his vice presidents.

"We thought, 'Wait a minute, this is not even close to what it should be,'" he said.

Beisner, who left Bryan in 2012, said he doesn't think all people should be paid the same. Some employees, including college presidents, add immense value to an institution.

"I am very much in favor of capitalism -- you pay people what they're worth," said Beisner, a 2008 Bryan graduate. "That said, it is very clear from the research that he is being paid far more than the market demands. It's also my personal opinion that he's being paid far more than he's worth."

The rising compensation of both public and private college executives has become the subject of national debate, especially as college costs and student debt continue to skyrocket.

Each year, the Chronicle of Higher Education dissects salary data for hundreds of colleges. Its annual review of 500 private college presidents found a wide variation in salaries -- including many that top $1 million annually. The publication analyzes executive pay in context of enrollment, tuition dollars and total budget dollars.

The median private college president's pay, based on a school's budget, was $5,466 in pay per $1 million in overall budget. Using that methodology, Livesay should make about $93,000, but his pay is two-and-a-half times that.

"That's pretty high for what we have seen," said Jonah Newman, database reporter at the Chronicle.

But that's just one measurement.

And overall, Livesay's pay isn't anywhere near the nation's highest-paid college presidents, whose institutions boast annual revenues and endowments in the billions of dollars. University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer receives more than $3.3 million in annual compensation. Before stepping down in 2013, Princeton's Shirley M. Tilghman was paid $935,326, and Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust about $900,000 each year.

"I think you have to look at everything," Newman said. "He's still in the bottom half in terms of overall compensation."

And the responsibilities of a college president can be immense.

"I think that's something we have to be really cognizant of as we are evaluating salary or talking about reasonableness of compensation," said Andy Brantley, president and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

"These are complex roles and many of them are 24/7/365 and with that should come some expectation for reasonable compensation."

Plus, Livesay has been at Bryan more than a decade, longer than the median tenure of a college president. Ultimately, Brantley said, a college's board of trustees or board of regents is responsible for determining appropriate pay for presidents.

John Haynes, chairman of Bryan's board of trustees, could not be reached for comment.

In an email, Livesay said his May pay cut "significantly reduced," his $258,912 salary, but he didn't say by how much.

Livesay downplayed financial troubles at the college and said there is good news in the books. The school received $104,000 in financial gifts on June 30, the last day of its fiscal year, allowing the school to end the year in the black, he said. Total contributions to the annual scholarship fund were $200,000 more than budgeted, making it one of the largest funds in the past decade, he added.

"We are very thankful to the Lord for all our Bryan supporters and especially our friends and alumni who have made this possible," he said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.