Thursday, April 30, 2009

Budgets Slashed At Fairfield University

Suspended salaries
Fairfield freezes pay this year
by Brendan Monahan April 29, 2009

Salaries from the 2008 Form 990 are filed by the University to the IRS. Clockwise from top left, University President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx, Academic Vice President Orin Grossman, Executive Vice President Billy Weitzer, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasury William Lucas, head men's basketball coach Ed Cooley and Vice President for Advancement Stephanie Frost.

The year was 2006 and the highest salary that crossed the Fairfield University payroll, other than University President Jeffrey von Arx, who returns his salary to the Jesuits, was then Vice President of Advancement George Diffley's $187,200.

Flash forward to 2008 and the story is a much more lucrative one. Among the same category of the five highest paid employees, there is just one employee in the "top five" category that is making under $200,000, Vice President of Information Services James Estrada's $198,720.

"It's frustrating to see administrators receive six figure salaries while current Fairfield students and graduating high school seniors and their families are struggling to make ends meet and finance their educational careers," said business major Elyse Nye '10.

To that end, Executive Vice President Billy Weitzer said that Fairfield employees, unlike past years, will not be receiving pay raises this year. Between data filed in public information for the years 2006 through 2008, von Arx has seen his salary compensation increase from $210,000 to $260,000 in 2007 and up to $282,000 in '08, though all of it is returned to the Jesuits.

Weitzer, meanwhile, who has been at Fairfield for two years after making the move from Wesleyan University, saw his salary increase by nearly 60 percent between 2007 and 2008 from $188,167 to $247,000. Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Bill Lucas, whose earnings have increased from $190,000 in 2006 to $250,470 in 2008 cautioned that numbers that impressive typically indicate that the employee arrived at Fairfield mid-way through the year.

"The first year [Weitzer] came in November to my recollection," Lucas said.

Although no increases will be taking place this year, Weitzer said he recognizes his fortune in a time when others are finding themselves in misfortune.

"I recognize that I am in a very fortunate financial situation, I've worked hard to achieve what I've achieved but lots of people work hard to achieve things," said Weitzer.

Weitzer noted that all salaries are dictated by the market, a sentiment shared by Lucas.

"It's complicated you know, it's basically controlled by external forces-marketplace, what ittakes to hire and retain good people, what the skills sets are, and what their experience is," Lucas said.

"What comes out at one end is a number but what goes into forming that number is quite extensive," Lucas added.

FUSA President Jeff Seiser believes that the responsibility administrators are given to keep Fairfield a top notch school is deserving of the earnings they make.

"For people to make upwards of $250,000 comes with great responsibility as they must produce and provide the best product to earn the high salary. If Fairfield is able to provide top flight programs and able to attract the best administrators by offering high salaries to administrators, then it is worth it," Seiser said.

Weitzer also said that most salaries are set to the industry standard.

Vice President for Information Systems James Estrada, the fifth-highest paid employee, agreed.

"There are these built-in market discrepancies that indicates where people fall," Estrada said.

He added that while his peers at larger schools make more than he does, he recognizes that those at smaller schools also make less.

Some student though are upset with the high salaries.

"I think Fairfield is like many other private universities and colleges with that one track money machine mindset," Nye said. "Every college is a business and businesses need to see profits in order to maintain a certain standard of excellence," she said.

An excellence that make some question if Men's Basketball Head Coach Ed Cooley should really be earning the $224,695 in salary compensation that he does, particularly when other teams and programs are not so fortunate.

"We made a decision at this school to have Division I sports, that there is value to that — not just for the student athletes themselves but for the institution as a whole and if your going to be apart of that structure your going to have a basketball coach that makes that kind of money," said Weitzer.

Seiser agreed, noting that he thinks "in order to compete in NCAA Division I basketball it requires a university to pay a high salary to attract a head coach. As long as Fairfield continues to strive to excel in Division I basketball it needs to offer high salaries to the head coach."

MAAC rival Loyola paid head men's basketball coach Jimmy Patsos $228,667 in 2007 while a dean at the school was the only other employee making over $200,000.

Altogether, Fairfield's "top-five" in 2007 were paid a combined $968,803 while Loyola's "top-five" totaled $972,696, proof to the market-driven formula Fairfield employs.

As far as the struggling economy and next year's tuition increase, Weitzer says officials have done all they can.

"It's a balancing act," he said. "I think it would have been irresponsible for us if we raised tuition at the levels that we have raised it in the past, but I also don't think it would have been responsible of us to not raise tuition and to have to cut essential services that make Fairfield the place that it is."

Grossman says the interesting position Fairfield finds itself in is the push-pull effect between current students' concern over tuition and prospective students' concern over amenities.

"There's a general pressure to try to keep tuition as low as possible, naturally, but there's a more specific pressure to have a lot of enhancements that people will come and say ' do you have this, do you have this?,'" Grossman said.

Weitzer said that the administrators care about cost of Fairfield and they are trying to keep the costs reasonable.

"It's not matter of controversy — the cost of education, we all care about it," Weitzer said. "Part of my job is to keep that cost fair and reasonable. Obviously, you know, my salary and everybody's salary here goes up against that but I don't think it's controversial. We're not here saying 'how much money can we squeeze out of those students.' We really do care about the costs."

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