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Kierscht received 24 percent raise her last year

Published Thursday, August 12, 2004

Former Stephens College President Marcia Kierscht benefited from a 24 percent pay hike - $35,822 - in her final year, according to tax records.

The raise brought Kierschtís listed compensation to $182,832 for the fiscal year that began June 1, 2002. She received another $19,993 in benefits. The figures appear on the collegeís Form 990, a public report that tax-exempt organizations make to the Internal Revenue Service.

The salary was less than what many of Kierschtís peers received. According to a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the median salary and benefits in fiscal 2002 for presidents at liberal arts colleges was $216,170.

But Kierscht retired in May 2003 from Stephens as one of the best-paid educators in Missouri. The Chronicle and a review of recent Form 990 filings from other colleges show Kierscht earned more than presidents at other private, liberal arts colleges in Missouri. She also earned more than most presidents at institutions categorized as granting masterís degrees.

Among local institutions, Kierscht earned more than the presidents at Columbia College, Central Methodist University, Westminster College and William Woods University, which all are larger than Stephensí enrollment of 647 students.

Kierscht could not be reached for comment.

Stephens spokeswoman Amy Gipson declined to say why Kierscht was awarded the pay increase. Gipson called it a matter between Kierscht and the Stephens board of trustees.

"To comment any further would be getting into personnel matters, and we just canít comment any further on personnel matters," Gipson said. "And at this point, itís water under the bridge. Weíre concentrating all our efforts on moving forward with our college and with our community."

The college also declined to give the salary of its current president, Wendy Libby. Form 990s do not need to be completed until months after an organizationís fiscal year ends, and there is no available record of Libbyís pay.

Stephens has had long-standing financial problems, including a reported operating deficit of $3 million to $4 million in each of the last three years. In the same fiscal year Kierscht received a pay raise, the college told its faculty it was decreasing contributions to their retirement plans.

William Clary, a Spanish professor at Stephens, acknowledged he doesnít know all the facts of why Kierscht received a salary boost, but he said thereís a disconnect between the raise and the collegeís ledger.

"The financial conditions when she left - we found out it was worse than what the administration had been telling us," Clary said.

Presidential pay in higher education has risen sharply in recent years and has become a much-debated topic.

Reach Nate Carlisle at (573) 815-1723 or





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