President salary data sparks compensation discussion

Different factors affect the salaries of President Barry Corey and Biola employees.


Soren Iverson/THE CHIMES

Katie Nelson, Writer

College President's Salary (as of 2011)

Soren Iverson/THE CHIMES


A report on college presidents’ salaries released by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows that Biola president Barry Corey’s base pay compensation increased by $117,758 between 2010 and 2011. This makes him the fifth highest-paid president in his peer group. The 2014 data is not available due to the possibility that compensation could change, according to Michael Pierce, vice president of business and financial affairs.

However, while the Chronicle’s data lists the president’s salary as $353,358, Pierce said the salary for 2012 was $280,000. Under those circumstances, the difference from 2011 to 2012 would be a decrease of $73,358.


Because Biola is a private institution, they are not required to make their employee salaries public. The Chronicle retrieves their information from the tax form 990, the latest of which is from 2011.

“The IRS, they do things a little backwards. Their 990 starts in July 2011 and goes to June 2012, so it would actually be Barry’s compensation for the year end in 2012. Our salaries are adjusted in January … so there could be some differences there,” said Pierce as to why the difference between years is so large.

Base pay is simply the flat salary paid to an employee, whereas total compensation factors in other financial boons, according to Chronicle database reporter Jonah Newman, one of the report’s authors. These include deferred compensation for a school’s retirement-matching plan and free or reduced institutional tuition for the employee’s children.

Another component of total compensation that comes into play for Biola is housing assistance. Orange County housing costs are notoriously expensive, with an average price tag of $609,800, according to Zillow. If an employee moves from a state with cheaper housing costs to Southern California in order to work at Biola, the university will sometimes tack on additional funds to that person’s salary.

“When that faculty member moves here, we might provide housing assistance of some sort … a housing allowance to help them adjust to Southern California, so that would be part of the compensation as well,” Pierce said.

During the data aggregation process, Newman said he was careful to display presidents’ salaries while taking into account factors that could vary widely from college to college.

“We’re mostly looking at trends and outliers, providing context for what can sometimes appear to be outrageous numbers,” Newman said. “Yes, the president of the University of Chicago makes $3 million a year — more than anyone else — but he also runs an institution way larger than most private colleges in the country. So giving some of that context is important and a good thing to add.”


Biola’s salaries are based on blind comparative data taken from a selection of similar schools, according to Pierce. This data is then used to create a scope of salaries. From there, the goal is to ensure that employees’ salaries fall somewhere in that scope based on experience and expertise.

The president’s and vice presidents’ salaries at Biola are calculated somewhat differently. Each is determined by the board of trustees based on similarly collected blind data. Historically, all of these salaries increase each year by a small percentage, with the exception of 2009, in light of the recession.

“It’s essentially a cost of living increase. It’s becoming more and more a reflection of what inflation is. And so salaries are increasing, [but] they’re not increasing much more than inflation is,” Pierce said. “We are trying to keep personnel costs as low as possible, because we understand that that ultimately gets borne by the tuition that the students are paying.”

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