Ever wonder why Northwestern’s tuition is so high?

By Charles Rollet

At least one reason why Northwestern places ninth on the list of most expensive colleges (beating its academic ranking by three spots) are the somewhat massive salaries commanded by its top administrators.

It’s not surprising they’re paid handsomely. These people are experts in their fields, with years of experience in higher education.But how do they compare with the median university administrator?

Thanks to a recently-released survey conducted by that other Chronicle, and Northwestern’s 990 tax form from 2011, we can find out.

Turns out, in some cases, Northwestern pays its top people a lot more than other schools do.

See below for an interactive chart of some of Northwestern’s top-paid people compared to the national median.


The most notable case is Chief Investment Officer William McClean, who makes over $1.5 million. The average person in his position at universities makes less than $230,000 (an informal survey of theatre majors concludes this is still pretty good.) Even within Northwestern, McClean made more in 2011 than President “Morty” Schapiro did 2012 (he raked in $1.35 million.)

As the infographic shows, some of the people at the top of Northwestern’s food chain made several orders of magnitude more than the national median. But why?

Cost of  living is one reason why Northwestern’s salaries are higher: it costs 15.7% more to live in Evanston than in the US on average.

But the real reason (and Schapiro loves pointing this out) is that Northwestern is in a league of its own due to its high ranking. People at more comparable institutions make roughly similar salaries. For example, the University of Chicago’s Chief Investment Officer Mark Schmid made $1,790,730 in 2011, “only” 200k more than Northwestern’s CIO William McClean.

That doesn’t mean Northwestern’s top brass isn’t overpaid, just that it’s like pretty much every other elite American college in that regard.


Below is the information this infographic was based on:

  • Dan Linzer, university provost, made $702,109 in 2011, compared to the $302,841 national median for provosts in 2013-14.
  • Thomas Cline, general counsel, made $867,910 vs. $218,184 nationally.
  • Robert McQuinn, head of alumni relations and development, made $457,525 vs. $110,811 nationally.
  • Sean Reynold, chief information officer, made $287,079 vs. $208,959 nationally.
  • Alan Cubbage, head of media relations, made $267,239 vs. $172,000 nationally.
  • Patricia Telles-Irvin, V.P. of student affairs, made $204,743 vs. 127,805 nationally.
  • Joseph Walsh, V.P. of research, made $336,512 vs. $247,638 nationally.

h/t GW Hatchet

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