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Tax forms reveal financial history of LC, peculiar payments to employees

Since January, The Pioneer Log has analyzed nine years of Form 990s filed by Lewis & Clark. The Form 990 is an Internal Revenue Service document that most tax-exempt organizations, including nonprofit colleges and universities, must file annually. Often, these documents are the only source of a nonprofit’s financial information available to the general public.

LC’s fiscal year (FY) runs from June 1 to May 31. FY2019, for example, began on June 1, 2018 and ended on May 31, 2019. The Pioneer Log examined Form 990s from FY2011 to FY2019, the most recent year filed by the college. All Form 990s were accessed through ProPublica, a news organization that specializes in investigative journalism and maintains a massive public information database.

To view Form 990s from FY2001 to FY2019, visit www.propublica.org and search “Lewis & Clark College.”

PART I: REVENUE TRENDS AND THE ENDOWMENT

For years, Lewis & Clark has faced a two-pronged financial predicament: rising costs amid decreasing revenue. This problem is not unique to Palatine Hill, and according to many administrators, LC has a long and well-established plan to boost revenue without compromising the quality of education. Yet, the past 11 years have been financially turbulent for LC. Between FY2011 and FY2016, three of six Form 990s recorded budget deficits ranging from -$2.5 million to -$10.1 million.

For FY2017, LC saw a significant spike in revenue from $164.9 million in FY2016 to nearly $181 million. This increase coincides with the arrival of “Classzilla,” LC’s class of 2019 that, at 699 entering first-years and transfers, was the largest in the college’s history. For at least three years, LC reaped the benefits of such a large class with consecutively increasing revenue, peaking at just over $200 million in FY2019. Because the college collects an overwhelming majority of its revenue from tuition and fees, higher enrollment typically translates to a budget surplus.

When the class of 2019 graduated, community members anticipated negative repercussions on revenue. Between FY2011 and FY2017, annual costs rose from $146.9 million to $178.7 million. In FY2019, the year Classzilla graduated, costs were $184.2 million, though the college reported net revenue of $15.8 million that year. According to prior reporting by The Pioneer Log, LC expected to see a $4 million deficit the year after Classzilla’s departure. Because Form 990s for FY2020 and beyond have not yet been filed, the recent state of LC’s budget is unclear.

To offset rising costs, the college has long discussed strategies to attract more students, whose tuition is LC’s primary source of revenue. In recent years, LC has implemented new academic programs, such as the data science, entrepreneurial leadership and innovation, and health studies minors, to attract more students. For several years, faculty have expressed mixed opinions on this approach in faculty meetings and forums as it requires more work during a period of compensation stasis. Additionally, a common argument is that an increase in STEM education detracts from the liberal arts experience, and there is a concern that department cuts will hit the humanities as new science and technology programs are implemented.

Boosting enrollment will require substantial improvements to residential infrastructure. According to past reporting by The Pioneer Log, LC aims to retain at least 550 students per graduating class. While more residential rooms will likely be needed to accommodate a higher student population, there is also a will among college stakeholders to refurbish existing rooms. In fact, though the 2019 Master Plan outlines the construction of new dormitories near Templeton Campus Center, recent cost estimates of such projects were outside of the college’s budget. Now, trustees are considering remodeling existing dormitories near Templeton including Stewart, Odell and Akin Halls, rather than demolishing and building new, a cost-effective plan that is consistent with the college’s commitment to sustainability.

Coupled with the planned renovation of Templeton, new or remodeled dormitories will aid in attracting students to LC. In a report of the February Board of Trustees meeting, Professor of History Elliott Young, one of two faculty representatives to the Board, wrote that these construction and renovation plans “(are) seen as crucial to our ability to recruit students.”

Tuition, fees and some donations comprise most of LC’s operating revenue, which is used to fund the college’s general activities without restriction. In addition, LC maintains an endowment of roughly $250 million. An endowment is a pool of assets invested by a college or university for the purpose of promoting academics, research, financial aid and other institutional missions. At LC, the annual endowment base spending rate — the percentage of the endowment that may be spent each year — is 4.5%, though that money cannot be used at will. A portion of the endowment is unrestricted and may be used to fund the college’s general operations, but much of it is directed by donors towards specific scholarships, endowed faculty positions, programs and other areas.

The endowment grows in two ways: donations and earnings on investment. At most colleges and universities, the president’s primary duty is to attract donations for the institution’s operating pool and endowment. Between FY2011 and FY2017, when Barry Glassner was president, the endowment fluctuated considerably, with a low of $182.3 million in FY2012 and a high of $224.9 million in FY2015. Investment gains and losses contributed to the endowment’s rise and fall, particularly during the Great Recession. However, a contributing factor was Glassner’s lackluster fundraising ability, particularly during the later years of his presidency. During the final three fiscal years of his presidency, the endowment saw a total of $5.4 million in donations.

In 2017, when President Wim Wiewel came to LC, the college noted his impressive fundraising history while president of Portland State University. According to a June 20, 2017 college press release, Wiewel tripled fundraising and “guided the school through the Great Recession and into a dramatic period of growth and independence.” Wiewel’s talents have indeed aided LC. During FY2019, Wiewel’s first full year as president, the endowment saw $7.33 million in contributions, more than the three previous years of donations combined. Additionally, Wiewel launched a capital campaign in 2017 with the goal of raising $155 million by 2024. As of February, the campaign has hit $85.7 million.

PART II: SELECTED SOURCES OF REVENUE AND EXPENSES

A majority of Lewis & Clark’s annual revenue comes from tuition and fees. Between FY2011 and FY2019, revenue from tuition and fees increased from $111.1 million to $142.5 million. During that same period, the cost of tuition and fees at the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) rose from $36,632 to $50,574. While tuition and fees increased by 38.1% during these nine years, revenue from these sources rose by just 28.2%. Fluctuations in enrollment, particularly during recent years, contributed to this difference.

Since 2015, when 699 first years and transfers came to LC, the average incoming class has comprised 569 first years and transfers. This excludes the most recent incoming class, whose data is not yet available through the Office of Institutional Research. Between 2010 and 2014, the average incoming class had 595 first years and transfers. Despite annual increases to tuition and fees, the college’s ability to retain and attract students has diminished in recent years, creating a revenue slump.

Government grants, donations and gifts, and other contributions are often LC’s second-highest source of revenue. The college also sees annual investment income, separate from the endowment, in the form of interest and dividends on savings and financial securities. Sales of non-inventory assets, such as financial securities, real estate and capital gains, often earn the college millions of dollars, though some years LC reports a loss in this category. Rental income from property owned by the college serves as a small source of revenue, as do royalties, income earned when outside entities use LC’s intellectual property. Fundraising events typically bring the college small amounts of revenue.

The bookstore, alumni events and the undergraduate Health Service also bring the college income. While the Health Service and Counseling Service are primarily funded by LC’s general fund, both report small amounts of annual revenue. For the Counseling Service, this revenue comes from psychiatry services and charges for no-show appointments. According to Andrea Dooley, chief financial officer and vice president for operations, the Health Service’s revenue is earned in a variety of ways.

“Health Service revenue consists of charges assessed for medications and medical supplies we dispense, labs run in-house, and certain procedures,” Dooley said via email. “Much of the revenue for the Health Service is pass-through money associated with samples sent out to external labs.”

The college regularly pays external labs for tests. Then, lab fees are charged to students, which is then reported as college revenue. 

“All provider visits are free in the Health Service,” said Dooley, as are counseling visits. Starting FY2021, students are charged $37 per semester to support the Health and Counseling Services.

As money comes in, money goes out. LC’s greatest expenses are program services and compensation to employees. Business-related travel, office expenses, information technology and insurance annually cost the college several million dollars. Legal, accounting and investment management expenses each typically cost LC less than one million dollars per year.

Across all three campuses, millions in grants, fellowships and scholarships are given to students each year. CAS takes up the bulk of these awards, followed by the law school and graduate school, respectively. Between FY2011 and FY2019, the value of awards given out to CAS students increased from $26.8 million to $45.7 million, excluding endowment grants, fellowships and scholarships. At the law school, during this period, awards rose from $4.9 million to $11 million. Graduate school students, however, have received less in awards during recent years. Between FY2016 and FY2019, graduate grants, fellowships and scholarships consecutively declined from $294,169 to $260,542.

Bon Appétit, LC’s most visible independent contractor, has recently received around $5 million per year. This amount is negotiated in the college’s contract with Bon Appétit and, in recent years, has annually increased. Bon Appétit earns additional revenue through retail operations, including food sold at Maggie’s, the Dovecote and the Trail Room. The amount that students pay for board does not entirely go to Bon Appétit. As Dooley explained, LC collects a portion of board as revenue to cover other expenses.

“The college pays for Templeton, it pays for utilities, it pays for all sorts of services and expenses that help facilitate having … meals available on campus,” Dooley said during a Feb. 26 interview.

Skyline Building Maintenance, the company that formerly conducted custodial services at LC, was paid just over $2 million during FY2019. In 2020, for the first time since 1995, LC chose a company other than Skyline as the college’s external custodial service. That year, Skyline did not bid for the contract. Today, A&A Maintenance serves as LC’s cleaning company. Many former Skyline employees joined A&A and continue to work on Palatine Hill.

LC boasts an impressive overseas program that regularly garners praise in national rankings. Yet, in recent years, Overseas and Off-Campus Programs has taken numerous rounds of budget cuts. Though Form 990s for the two most recent fiscal years are not available, a sharp reduction in overseas funding of nearly $1 million occurred between FY2018 and FY2019.

Over five years of Pioneer Log reporting, dozens of students, faculty and staff have expressed concern that Overseas and Off-Campus Programs will become a regular target of budget cuts. In the last several years, programs in Glasgow, Scotland, and Tucson, Arizona, have been permanently cut. Other iterations of programs, such as the Spring 2020 Seoul, South Korea, trip, have also been canceled.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all overseas programs were canceled. The funds typically allotted to Overseas and  Off-Campus Programs have been used for other expenses.

“Because we were forced to cancel overseas programs, we did not incur those expenses,” Dooley said. “Unfortunately, though, we incurred a lot of other expenses in lieu of those, all of these COVID-related expenses, things like testing, extra custodial, hiring a contact tracer, an extra nurse practitioner. We haven’t experienced any savings … our expenses are higher this year than a normal year.”

PART III: ADMINISTRATOR COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS

Editor’s Note: Occasionally, a data-heavy story comes along that cannot easily be summarized in words. After careful deliberation among the editorial board, The Pioneer Log decided to publish the compensation of administrators between FY2011 and FY2019. Each of the listed individuals held a high-ranking administrative post during this time period. Some still work at the college while others have departed. The values in this section and the table below comprise total compensation in a given fiscal year, including salaries and benefits. This data is publicly available and The Pioneer Log’s decision is consistent with its policy on public community members. For more information on this policy, read The Pioneer Log’s Code of Ethics.

Part VII of the Form 990 requires nonprofits to report the compensation of trustees, officers, key employees and the five highest compensated employees. At Lewis & Clark, like most colleges and universities, trustees are not compensated. Each year, the college records over one dozen employees that fall in the other three categories, in addition to an occasional former employee that still receives compensation.

The president, vice presidents, financial and legal administrators, and deans are listed as officers and key employees. Typically, at LC, the five highest compensated employees other than officers and key employees are faculty at the law school and College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Unless these employees served in high-level administrative roles between FY2011 and FY2019, The Pioneer Log has chosen not to report on their compensation.

Between FY2011 and FY2019, several administrators received annual compensation increases in the thousands of dollars. The president is responsible for hiring and determining the compensation of deans and vice presidents. Other administrators are hired by the supervisors of their departments who, along with Human Resources, decide their compensation.

Some administrators take on additional responsibilities in a given year, thus earning greater compensation. Dooley explained these situations in an email interview.

“There are year-to-year variances in compensation reported on 990s that are not necessarily fully attributable to changes to an individual’s base compensation,” Dooley said. “For instance, if an employee takes on an additional assignment at the College (for instance, teaches a class for a semester, or serves in a different role for an interim period), that employee may receive a stipend for a certain limited period of time.”

LC’s president is hired by the Board of Trustees. Each year, the Board’s Compensation Committee evaluates the president’s performance and determines whether or not changes to compensation are appropriate.

Additionally, the president is required to reside at Cooley House, a grand Tudor-style mansion that was gifted to LC in 2002. The house serves as a venue for many college events, in addition to its role as the president’s home. According to the agreement between the college and the Cooley family, if the president does not reside in the home, the property will be re-gifted to Reed College.

The college pays for social club memberships for the president, vice president for institutional advancement and dean of the law school. Current membership dues are paid to the Waverley Country Club, Multnomah Athletic Club and Arlington Club. These memberships are intended to promote networking and fundraising. Only business-related expenses are covered by the college. Personal expenses such as non-business lunches are not paid for by LC.

An evaluation of regional peer institutions shows that LC pays some administrators generously, others less so. During FY2019, LC compensated President Wim Wiewel a total of $538,713. The same year, the University of Puget Sound (UPS) compensated its president $474,632, the University of Portland (UP) compensated its president $501,539 and Reed College’s acting president earned $398,000. 

During FY2019, LC’s chief financial officer, Alan Finn, was compensated $250,740 before leaving LC. That year, the CFO of UPS was compensated $365,359, UP’s vice president for financial affairs earned $297,880 and Reed compensated its vice president and treasurer $349,063. During FY2018, the year before she left LC, Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez earned $233,046. During the same period, UPS compensated its dean of students $153,090, UP gave its vice president for student affairs $204,307 and Reed’s dean of student services earned $264,455.

Faculty frustration with administrator salaries stems from a sense that their own compensation is not competitive. During FY2018, LC’s five highest compensated professors — three of whom teach at the law school — earned an average salary of $246,346. According to Dooley, the five highest compensated employees listed in Form 990s that are not officers or key employees do not earn significantly more than other employees at LC.

“What you don’t see is number six through the end of the list,” Dooley said. “This idea that these people are compensated significantly more than all of their peers, I don’t think the data says that. There’s a wide range of compensation and there are a number of highly compensated that you don’t see.”

During the 2019-20 academic year, the median CAS assistant professor earned a salary of $70,370. That same year, the median CAS associate professor was paid $81,310 and the median CAS full professor earned $102,350. These figures come from a January 2020 report issued by Dean of CAS Bruce Suttmeier.

Between FY2011 and FY2019, the college continued paying two former administrators after they left LC. In the summer of 2012, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Gregory Volk left the college after five years of service. During FY2013, Volk was compensated $336,100. The next two years, FY2014 and FY2015, Volk was paid $529,128 despite no longer being employed by the college. In total, Volk was compensated $865,228 between FY2013 and FY2015.

In January 2017, then-President Barry Glassner suddenly resigned. However, he kept his tenured position as a professor of sociology. During FY2018 and FY2019, Glassner was paid $898,132. Most of this compensation occurred after he resigned as president. Since the FY2019 Form 990 is the latest publicly available, it is unclear whether Glassner is still being paid by the college or when compensation ceased.

Though Glassner was technically a tenured professor after resigning as president, he did not maintain a traditional academic relationship with the college. He did not teach classes, work with the department of sociology and anthropology, or keep a physical presence on Palatine Hill.

Five current members of college leadership anonymously discussed Volk and Glassner’s departures. According to them, neither of the two former administrators left their positions willingly.

Multiple administrators declined to comment on Volk and Glassner’s post-employment compensation and the details of their departures, citing confidentiality agreements. In a statement to The Pioneer Log, Chair of the Board of Trustees Stephanie Fowler also declined to comment, but said she is “happy those financial liabilities are now in the past.”

Correction (March 24, 2021): Though Lewis & Clark’s fiscal years run from June 1 to May 31, they are identified by the period between Jan. 1 and May 31. For example, fiscal year 2019 began on June 1, 2018 and ended on May 31, 2019. Initial reporting mislabeled fiscal years by one year prior. The time period analyzed by The Pioneer Log — June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2019 — did not change with this correction. All graphs and tables have been updated.

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