Before Teresa Amott became president in 2011, the position came with considerably lower pay than at similar schools in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.
Though Amott made almost $100,000 more than her predecessor in her first two years, her salary is still considerably low — nearly 37 percent lower than the median presidential salary in the ACM, according to IRS documents.
Unlike some of her peers, Amott doesn’t receive funds from the college to belong to health or social clubs. When she travels on fundraising trips, she doesn’t fly first class.
Amott’s lower salary can be linked to Knox’s endowment, which lags behind its peers.
“If you look at relative endowments, that helps explain some of the reasons why we fall where we do, but it’s part of the strategic plan to move these forward,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Richard Riddell ‘72.
The higher the endowment, the more a president might be paid, Professor of Economics Richard Stout said. He estimates that for schools like Grinnell and Macalester that boast $651,568 and $743,968 presidential salaries, respectively, the endowment is bigger.
“Another way to think about size of endowment is you might normalize it by saying size of endowment per student. For example, the endowment at Knox is about $70,000 of endowment per student. That’s low,” he said.
Historically, the position has come with substantially lower pay than at other institutions in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest — between 2008 and 2010, Amott’s predecessor took home 44 percent below mean compensation in the ACM, TKS reported in 2013.
But according to Amott, being below the middle makes sense. Knox professors are also paid lower than their colleagues at peer institutions.
“We’re all part of the same small community, and there’s a moral obligation to make sure our compensation is appropriate,” Amott said.
Still, the Board of Trustees has prioritized raising the president’s and other faculty members’ salaries to gain a competitive edge within the marketplace, Riddell said.
“Knox wants to be as competitive as possible and we have openings, and we’re looking to attract people so we have to be mindful,” Riddell said. The board, which meets three times a year, decides on presidential compensation.
In the grand scheme of a college, a president’s compensation is a small percentage of the budget, said Jack Stripling, a senior reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“It can certainly look tone-deaf if you jack up tuition and pay [presidents] salaries that would be considered exorbitant,” Stripling said. “It’s important as a symbolic issue, and it’s important as a fact that these institutions are granted special privileges under tax code which requires level of transparency and accountability.”
Amott’s current compensation won’t be available until later this year, when Knox’s tax filings will be publically available. Riddell would not comment on Amott’s current salary, or her salary in 2014.
Editor’s note: The compensation reflected in the graphic includes retirement and other benefits as well as salary.