Turner's Salary Reaches a Million
Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
There's a new millionaire on the hilltop, as Southern Methodist University's president R. Gerald Turner has now joined this elite club.
President Turner's total compensation package reached $1,018,618 for fiscal year 2008, just as the economy was tanking for many others. According to Kent Best, executive director of news and communications, his salary for 2007-08 was $766,500 with $252,118 in additional benefits. Turner has been president of SMU since 1995.
Recently released data made available by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows Turner is now a member of the millionaire rank along with 22 other private college and university presidents after he received a 16 percent salary increase over the 2006-07 fiscal year.
The highest paid private university president is Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; her compensation exceeds $1.5 million.
The median salary for presidents of private universities rose 6.5 percent to $359,000 in fiscal year 2007-08 and 15.5 percent for major private research universities to $628,000 during the same period, according to the Chronicle. The survey was conducted among 419 private universities across the nation.
Turner would not answer questions for this story. But, Best said the salary was justified despite the recession because Turner has led two successful fund-raising campaigns since becoming president of the university.
The first campaign, A Time to Lead (1997-2002), raised more than $542 million, well above its original goal of $300 million. The current campaign, SMU Unbridled: The Second Century, went public in September 2008. After two years of private campaigning, it has raised $403 million toward its goal of $750 million.
Students, teachers and university workers have mixed feelings about the president's salary.
"This is typical of corporate America," said a contractor, who operates a business in the Hughes-Trigg Center, and asked to remain anonymous because he didn't want to jeopardize his contract with the university. "The one's who are running the business' are the one's who get the raises, the one's who aren't have to do all the cutting back."
"It doesn't sound very right that he makes that much money," said Claire Coogan, a first-year student who is majoring in biochemistry and has plans to go into education. "But, I don't know enough about what he does to decide if it's too much."
According to Best, Turner has implemented budgetary guidelines that are intended to save money and ensure that we are careful stewards of resources without sacrificing the quality of our programs or existing faculty and staff.
"SMU wants to be a top-tier university," George Henson, part-time lecturer at Dedman, said. "But, they only pay their faculty what they have to. Do they really want to be like Wal-Mart?"
"I've always thought teachers and professors aren't paid enough for the very difficult job they do," Coogan said. "And no one tries to rectify it."
New information about faculty and staff salaries will be announced sometime after the first of the year, according to Best.
"It's important to note that many colleges and universities across the nation have frozen salaries and/or eliminated positions and programs, which SMU has not done," Best said.
As college and university presidents' salaries continue to rise so does tuition. Increasing tuition is making it more difficult for students and their families to pay for an education.
"It's very hard to pay for school," Coogan said. "I'm so glad I have scholarships."
More than 70 percent of SMU undergraduates receive some sort of assistance in the form of merit- or need-based award packages, according to the school's Web site.
These funds include scholarships and funding made available to students through campaign gifts and endowments to the university.
"I think the university wastes a lot of money," said the contractor. "However, I've seen improvements since I've been here so, maybe Turner's salary is a good trade for all the money he has brought into the school."
The average price of room and board at four-year private colleges exceeded $39,000 in 2008, according to the latest figures from the College Board. And the Chronicle released figures showing 58 colleges and universities that charged more than $50,000 in 2009.
The average cost of room and board at SMU for the 2009-10 school year is $47,606. That is $4,394 less than the average cost of room and board at Harvard University this year, which is $52,000.
"In 2010, several new gifts will be announced, showing ongoing momentum for SMU's effort," Best said.
Some students feel the quality of education is one of the most important factors in choosing SMU.
"Tuition here is very high," Coogan said. "But, everything at SMU is good quality and I feel the education here is worth the money. I'm glad I'm here."