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As 2010 tuition spiked, senior administration got raise

As spending and revenue from tuition at Belmont University have risen from year to year, the salaries of some of the already-highest paid employees on campus have risen as well.

The school’s 2011 Form 990 tax return that reported the university’s earnings and expenses in the 2010 fiscal year shows the university received more than $134 million in tuition, 12 percent more than in 2009. From year to year, enrollment increased 9 percent.

With this rise in revenues and tuition came a rise in compensation that starts at the top. President Bob Fisher and his administration received 4 to 6 percent raises.

In 2010, his 11th year at Belmont, Fisher’s level of compensation was now one of the 50 highest among private college presidents in the country.

The university has more than doubled in size, created multiple graduate schools and gained national and regional attention since Fisher came to Belmont in 2000.

According to the university’s 2010 tax form, Fisher’s total compensation was $904,303, which was up 4.6 percent from the year before and 24 percent in a three-year period.

Fisher’s total level of compensation, which includes base, deferred and other types of pay and nontaxable benefits, was the 43rd highest in the country, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report. It’s also higher than the annual compensation of half of the Ivy League’s presidents, including Princeton and Harvard.

According to the Chronicle report, he is also the seventh highest-paid president at a Master’s-granting university in the country. In the same category, his base compensation that makes up his annual salary in the second-highest. Compared to other private schools in the top 10 of Belmont’s U.S. News and World Report regional category, such as Elon and Stetson universities, Fisher’s compensation was $340,000 more than that of any president or chancellor.

While Fisher’s raise bumped his ranking among his national and regional peers, the school’s vice presidents received a higher percentage raise than him. Each of those five administrators, including Steve Lasley, Bo Thomas, Jason Rogers, Susan West and Todd Lake had their salaries rise from 5.2 to 5.6 percent in the 2010 return. Their salaries for the fiscal year ranged from $150,533 to $229,166.

The only listed official who had a year-to-year drop in salary was former provost Marcia McDonald, who resigned from her post in the middle of the year and returned to the English department as a faculty member.

The highest paid woman on campus, however, was not McDonald or West, the vice president of presidential affairs.

Jane Finley, who holds an endowed chair in accounting, made $171,271 in the fiscal year. Still, at least 16 men at Belmont had higher salaries than her in 2010.

West was the only racial minority on the list of the highest-paid administrators, deans and faculty at Belmont.

The largest reported jump in compensation was for men’s basketball coach Rick Byrd, who made $728,667, an increase of 28 percent from his raise in 2009. In his 27 years at Belmont, he has coached the men’s basketball team to five NCAA tournaments after transitioning the program to the NCAA from the NAIA. The only other athletics official with a salary high enough to be reported was athletics director Mike Strickland, who made $169,748.

As many administrators and high-paid university officials received raises from year to year, the amount of money coming into the school jumped, too.

Revenue increased by nearly $33 million from 2009 to 2010, which was nearly three times the rate of growth in a three-year period. More than half of the revenue increase came from additional tuition and fees, which totaled more than $134 million during the 2010 fiscal year.

That’s up 12 percent from 2009 and 23 percent in a three-year period.

While many salaries rose at the administrative and other leadership levels, construction costs dropped from the 2010 return as the Randall and Sadie Baskin Center and a renovated E.S. Rose Park were being built.

During the fiscal year:

  1. The university paid longtime contractor R.C. Mathews Construction around $12.1 million, mostly for the erection of the Baskin Center that now houses the university’s law school.

  2. They also paid $6.3 million to Clayco, a construction company associated with the renovation of Rose Park.

  3. Earl Swensson and Associates, the firm that has performed architectural services for the university for years, also received $1.5 million, mostly for their work on the Baskin Center.

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