For the benefit of anyone interested in some more details about the inner workings of Williams, here are the College’s Form 990s for the last 6 years: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.

There is a lot of interesting information here. For now, I just want to highlight the growth in total compensation for the President. In 1998, total compensation was $274,000. By 2003, it was $423,000.

Am I the only one that is bothered by that growth? In five years, compensation has increased by more than 50%, or about 9% per year. Eyeballing the intermediate years, it seems like the growth rate is fairly steady, ignoring one outlier year caused by some weirdness, presumably, in Hank Payne’s contract.

Has this 9% growth been steady in the past and is it likely to continue in the future? Alas, I have not been able to find a Form 990 from the 1980’s. (Presumably, this must be available in hard copy somewhere in Washinton DC.) But, this trend would suggest total compensation for Frank Oakley of $116,000 in 1988 (which seems about right). As to the future, a member of the board of trustees (a smart and decent guy) said that, when he joined the board, he was surprised that Morty was paid so little.

If the growth rate of 9% per year continues, then Morty (or his successor) will break the $1 million mark in 2013. As always, my question to defenders of the current system is not: Is Morty paid too much? My question is: At what point should I — as a concerned alum from whom the College is always asking for more money — become concerned that the President of Williams is being paid too much? Is it $600,000, $800,000, $1 million, $4 million or what? How much is too much? Tell me now so that I can know when to start worrying.

I have little doubt that if I had asked this question in 1988, people — perhaps even Morty himself as my professor in ECON 401 — would have quoted numbers not much greater than $500,000.

Related posts on salary issues are here, here and here.


Thanks to College Controller Susan Hogan and Vice President for Administration and Treasurer Helen Ouellette for information on these forms. Thanks also to Shimon Rura ’03 for highlighting the availability of GuideStar.

Those interested in background reading on the topic of compensation in higher education might start with this article from last year’s Chronicle of Higher Education.

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