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Administration explains President Cornwell’s compensation

The Voice met with President Cornwell and other officials to gain a clearer understanding of the pay and benefits

Emily Timmerman

Lee McKinstry

Editors in Chief

Over the past two weeks, members of the Voice Editorial Board have met with Wooster administrators to discuss the salaries and benefit packages given to members of the College’s administration, faculty and staff. President Grant Cornwell, Vice President of Finance and Business/Treasurer Laurie Stickelmaier, Assoc. Vice President for College Relations and Marketing John Hopkins and Director of the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement Nancy Grace reviewed tax 990 forms, statistics and other reported compensation figures in an effort to make the financial operations of the College more transparent.

President Cornwell’s total compensation was reported at $633,430 for the 2010-2011 year. This figure, as it is presented in the tax 990 form, is comprised of five parts: “base compensation;” “bonuses and incentive compensation;” “other reportable compensation;” “retirement and other deferred compensation;” and “nontaxable benefits.”

While they are labeled as bonuses on the 990, Cornwell does not receive any bonuses.

Cornwell’s salary before taxes is reported as his “base compensation” in 2010-2011 totaled $320,000. His “bonus and incentive compensation,” listed at $148,843, makes up his 403 B (or TIAA-CREF), which is a retirement equities fund. Each Wooster employee is offered a similar opportunity to invest in such a fund as well. However, the figure, which feeds into his overall pension, is not a part of the president’s total compensation every year. Different presidents receive this payout in different financial years determined in their contracts. It is thus difficult to justifiably compare different Ohio president’s total compensation package because this component of their contract varies dramatically from year to year.

“Other reported compensation” includes Cornwell’s $4,122 country club expenses (an allowance provided to him for entertainment purposes), $6,505 in housekeeping expenses, $432 for cable and $120 for phone — totaling $11,137. “Retirement and other deferred compensation,” totaling $68,700, make up additional contributions to his pension. Finally, “nontaxable benefits,” totaling $84,750, include healthcare and Cornwell’s “gross-up payment” — the tuition remission that he receives to pay for his two children’s college educations. In the 2010-2011 year both of Cornwell’s children were enrolled in college. All of these figures together make up his reported total compensation and thus give a figure that can go up and down depending on changes to any one of these components.

These benefits, according to Stickelmaier, are key in bringing strong administrative staff to the College. “Again, let’s remember that this is what the Board felt it needed to do to attract a person like Grant Cornwell to come here and be president,” Sticklemaier explained.

A compensation committee within the Board of Trustees calculates the president’s salary each year after reviewing comparable packages at similar institutions in the Great Lakes College Association and of other private colleges across the country.

Stickelmaier also wished to draw attention to the College’s recent campaign to increase faculty salaries so that they would be more competitive among Ohio’s private colleges. For four years, six faculty representatives, five cabinet members and the chair of the staff committee helped advise administrative work about increasing faculty salaries.

“We’ve made some progress over the last few years in getting faculty salaries up to the median in the Great Lakes Colleges Association,” said Sticklemaier. “Then this past year, the other colleges in the associations have really worked hard to be competitive, so we haven’t lost in the ground, but we’ve really worked hard to remain flat.”

Though it hasn’t been widely publicized beyond the College, these changes were discussed at length in multiple faculty meetings.

As far as the College’s endowment is concerned, Stickelmaier says that only a portion is invested in outside markets. In a year these investments can affect the endowment as the returns on those investments are based on the performance of the markets. The college is a non-profit organization, and does not post a profit; any surplus is invested institutionally. In many years, the College operates at a deficit.

“The way I explain it to the trustees is that the College takes in a certain amount of money every year, and we spend every dime of that every year providing the education that we provide,” said Sticklemaier. “We don’t have any money to blow, but then again we’re not having any financial difficulty either. We have a break-even budget every single year.”

Last year, Wooster actually reported a surplus of approximately $7,000, something that doesn’t usually happen.

“I’m prejudiced, but I think this place is just amazing at what it does, so if we can do this and still break even, that’s great,” said Sticklemaier.

Cornwell, Sticklemaier and Hopkins stressed that any student interested in learning more about the financial workings of the College can make an appointment with them at any time. Records such as tax 990 forms are available to the public by law.

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