Fair and Competitive, for Some

George Washington University’s academic administrators are apparently among the highest paid in the country. According to an article by Chelsea Radler in The Hatchet, the student newspaper:

Top-paid GW officials made on average 1.77 times the national median salary when compared to other doctoral institutions in fiscal year 2010, according to a review of financial disclosure forms and a survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

The Hatchet’s analysis examined all administrators for whom University and national salary data was available, a total of 18 of the 23 highest-paid GW administrators. The Association data includes public and private doctoral institutions in the same category.

Chief Investment Officer Don Lindsey earned $423,073 in base compensation, more than twice the national median of $200,000. Likewise, former men’s head basketball coach Karl Hobbs earned a base salary of $450,480, twice the national median compensation for his position. University President Steven Knapp’s base compensation was $691,462, 1.84 times the national median for a doctoral institution’s top executive. His total compensation including bonuses and benefits topped $1 million for the first time this year.

An earlier investigation by The Hatchet revealed that full-time George Washington professors earned 7 percent less than the national average.

The university protests that the comparison is misleading. According to the article:

“It is important to note that average salaries at the national level do not serve as an appropriate benchmark for GW. National averages blend schools that are large and small, public and private, rural and urban, and located in low cost and high cost geographies,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. “GW philosophy is to be fair and competitive to ensure we are able to attract and retain the talent necessary to maintain the success of the University.”

Well yes, but that’s not really much of an explanation.

Money paid to university administrators, after all, is money that comes out of student tuition and that’s not paid to university academics. Tuition at the school is $44,103 a year, among the highest rates in the nation.

What’s peculiar about this is not so much that George Washington administrators are paid more than the average administrator in America but that this occurs that the same time that its professors are paid less than the average and its students pay more than the average (and carry higher than average education debt) to attend college.

“Fair and competitive” apparently doesn’t apply to everyone.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer