According to Azusa Pacific’s mission statement, the school strives for academic excellence as a place of higher education while working to give its students a Christian perspective of truth and life. This issue is especially important in university finances, with recent tax documents reporting that 19 people received more than $100,000 in reportable compensation from APU.
The highest of these salaries goes to Dr. Jon Wallace, APU president, who received a base salary of $294,898 in 2011. When including other reportable compensation, deferred payment and nontaxable benefits, that number rises to $382,270.
Much of this data is found in IRS Form 990, which nonprofit organizations like APU are required to complete and submit every year, as APU is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with tax exempt status. After IRS processing, the documents become public record, with the most recently available report being the 2011 fiscal year.
For administrators at APU, benefits include standards such as health insurance and retirement packages. Some receive auto allowances if their positions demand frequent travel. All full-time university employees receive tuition benefits. The president lives in housing provided and maintained by APU as a condition of employment.
Some students are surprised to see salary values and benefits packages like the ones described above.
“It’s troubling to me. I understand why a salary would be high for a college president at other universities, but at a private Christian university we’re called to be set apart,” said a junior economics major who asked to remain anonymous.
Not all students share this point of view, however.
“APU is paying less than the industry standard rate for an incredible visionary to drive the university and make a great impact,” said junior business major Tyler Casey.
There is truth to this statement. In order to determine salaries for members in APU administration, the school conducts market surveys of comparable schools to use as a reference. according to Form 990. Comparisons are made regarding the size of the university, the enrollment statistics and the size of the endowment available.
These thoughts are not satisfying to the disgruntled economics major. “Let’s say that the university is here for the Kingdom of God,” he said. “I don’t think the Kingdom of God owes anyone $300,000 a year.”
Nevertheless, among similarly sized schools such as Loyola Marymount in Southern California and Humboldt State in Northern California, Wallace is already making less than the market rate.
Dr. David Bixby, Azusa Pacific executive president, sees it as a merging of fair wages and practical Christian ethics.
“We’ve worked really hard to make APU one of the finest Christian institutions in the country,” Bixby said. “Would somebody come in and work for less?Sure, they probably would, but APU has made some pretty significant progress through the years and a lot of that has to do with Jon’s leadership.”
Wallace has overseen several major developments during his 13-year tenure. Wallace oversaw the procurement of University Village, the opening of the Segerstrom science building and the addition of several new academic programs. The High Sierra Semester and South Africa Semester programs also originated during his leadership.
In the 2000-2001 academic year, when Wallace became president, APU had a total of 6,497 undergraduate, graduate and first professional students. That number has risen to 10,184 in the 2012-2013 year. Annual undergraduate tuition has risen from $15,210 to $30,236, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
In that time, Wallace’s base salary has risen from $160,000 in his first year (2000) to $294,898 (2011), according to Form 990s for this time period. Wallace’s base salary did decrease slightly each year in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Dr. Mark Eaton, an English professor, said the president’s compensation should be competitive. Eaton’s perspective is unique: His father served as president of Seattle Pacific University from 1996-2012. He points out a “tricky correlation” between compensation and quality in higher education.
While Eaton supports the president, he thinks APU can still improve the salaries of professors.
“Just as the president’s salary should be competitive with presidential salaries at APU’s peer institutions, however, so too should faculty salaries be competitive,” Eaton said.
Eaton believes that a well-paid faculty base can contribute to APU’s growing prestige.
“I’m not sure that our faculty salaries and workloads are commensurate with the kinds of institutions, peer or aspirational, that we’d like to think APU is comparable to right now,” he said.
Eaton’s concerns are shared by those in APU administration.
“We’ve been on a journey the last five years trying to bring their salaries up,” Bixby said. “I think we could do better there and that’s always at the top of our thinking.”
Wallace said APU faculty and staff are “world-class” employees.
“Both the board [of trustees] and the president are committed to faculty and staff salaries that reflect this,” Wallace said.
While this may be a topic of great interest for faculty, administration and other salary-earners at APU, questions of finance extend to students as well.
Dr. Adele Harrison teaches a class on personal finance at APU and has her students track their expenses. She notes that there is not a significant difference between the spending habits of APU students and national college trends. Each semester, she begins by asking her students what they would do with different amounts of money.
“I’ve had some semesters,” Harrison said, “where giving never came up.”
Harrison said many students live under the impression that they cannot be generous while battling zero-income and student debt. She counters by calling into mind Luke 16:10, which says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” Giving, she argues, is essential to the Christian faith.
“It doesn’t have to be monetary,” Harrison said. “You can be generous with your attention of someone, you can be generous with your time. Generosity is always a matter of humility and looking at the other person before yourself, and one of the ways you can show that is with your funds.”
Harrison suggests that the income Christians receive is not necessarily what matters the most, but rather what they choose to do with what they’re given, echoing Wallace’s statements on money and other material possessions.
“All of what we have belongs to Christ,” Wallace said. “What is given to us we give back to him.”