Wake Forest Graduate Comments on University’s Evolving Finances

This letter to the editor was submitted to the Old Gold & Black by a Wake Forest graduate who chose to remain anonymous.

Frankly, the entire culture of Wake Forest is broken from where I stand. Although I think it’s clear that it is thankfully a more optically diverse community, I can’t recognize the school that was so ably led by Ralph Scales in my time there. I worked 30 hours a week and had two scholarships; that allowed me to almost pay the entire $8,000 a year in total expenses (plus $5 a week for Thursday nights at the Saf Room.) That’s how much Wake Forest cost, including room and board, in 1983. For this year’s incoming class, an undergraduate degree at Wake Forest will approach $300,000 once all fees are accounted for. While Wake Forest would like to claim that they offer generous student aid, the fact is that this model demands that a sizable percentage of the student body has to be drawn from a demographic that can pay full cost tuition. Basically, Wake Forest has become an elitist island. And you don’t have to look too deeply to see the absurd bureaucracy that has been built upon these ridiculous fees. To “celebrate” his 10th anniversary at Wake, our trustees paid Nathan Hatch $4.4 million in the year ended June 2016. Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The salaries paid to dozens of bureaucrats are sickening. Because Wake Forest delays filing their 990 as much as the law allows, it is hard to give completely updated data. In fact, you have to use a third party site to get an electronic copy of Wake Forest’s 990 in real time; on Wake Forest’s site they instantly publish the useless “Audited University Financial Report” which is a crap document with no salary information. If you want a 990 here’s what you get:

“Requesting Electronic or Printed Copies
There is no charge to view the forms on site. (Meaning IN THEIR OFFICE)
Requests for electronic or paper copies of tax year returns may be made by sending the amount specified (20¢ per page) and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

WFU Tax Director
P.O. Box 7201
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
davenpae@wfu.edu

Copies will be mailed or emailed within 7 days of receipt of payment. The postage fee (stamped envelope) is waived when requesting electronic copies.

Form 990
Year ended 6/30/16: $17.00 plus postage”

They could easily provide a link to the 990 but they don’t want you to see it. Why? Well, the reason Wake Forest will cost nearly $300,000 to attend is because a cadre of astoundingly overpaid administrators are pulling down seriously big bucks. What kind of money? I would recommend that you pull the 990 from GuideStar if you really want the details, but I’ll give you one example. Rogan Kersh, the Provost, was paid about $845,000 in total compensation for the year ended June 30, 2016. Mind you, that’s 18 months ago. The only thing we know for sure is that it’s likely much higher now! Of course, we have no easy way to know what the real bottom line is for these administrators as the “10 Year Anniversary Deal” for Hatch so clearly demonstrates. We thought we were “just” paying him about $1.5 million a year but the Board had added the deferred jackpot bonus to this amount. There is nothing to prevent them from attaching similar packages to any or all of the other enormously overpaid bureaucrats. But, you know, you gotta pay the going rate for new “Mission Statements” and rambling pablum about educating the “whole student.”

It is criminal to me. Wake Forest, like almost all private colleges, woefully underpays the hard working people who clean the offices and cut the beautiful lawns. They also take advantage of the teaching assistants and lower level instructors who may never gain tenure.

My wife and I took our degrees from Wake Forest and we both work hard in positions that serve our communities. We give generously to many worthy organizations, with Partners in Health and their outreach in Haiti as a particular favorite. I can’t help but be amused when we get a mailing from Wake Forest imploring us to send them a donation, but it’s actually more sad than funny.

  • Hank Wordsworth

    I was that oxymoron of oxymorons, the “schizophrenic Wake Forest student,” the positive symptoms of which I struggled assiduously to compartmentalize. Its raging introjects just didn’t mix well with the coherence demanded by the innumerable term papers I had to write while a student there. Nevertheless at age 60 a residual symptom of my illness remains and manifests on occasion in an uncanny ability to read minds (i.e., telepathy). It’s been a long time, but lately President Hatch has triggered this symptom into florid revelation:

    Greetings students and faculty! Your President thinking. Despite insinuations to the contrary, we are not racists! See how we paid yet another brilliant speaker—Michael Dyson–to lecture you on your endemic racism. More than that, we opened your social venues to gangbangers who carry guns and knives. Unfortunately a student was shot and killed last weekend, but this is an isolated incident. Indeed, this is the first student to be shot since 2016. Moreover, several students have been graciously freed unharmed after being kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to empty their ATM accounts. Good will begets good will when we adhere to our core values and compulsively virtue signal! We shall bear any burden to keep Wake Forest from regressing to the bad old days of your parents’ and grandparents’ Wake Forest when it was a podunk Baptist
    institution and tuition, room and fees were $3000 (1978). True, as many students became doctors, teachers, lawyers and entrepreneurs then as do today. And, true, crime (even petty theft), sexual assault, and student suicide were virtually unheard of on that ungated, completely unlocked, conservative campus. But what a crass, stifling, reactionary place for a mind to thrive. In those days Pro Humanitate signified little more than a trio of rednecks and NASCAR fans with 1500 SATs chugging Budweiser in their dormitory room. The Saturday nights they must have wasted bantering on about Heidegger, “absturz”, “dasein,” and other German nonsense. But look at us now! We should thank almighty Progress that this nightmare legacy of sexism, privilege, self-absorption, and crypto-fascism is long behind us. In the meantime, take
    care of yourselves. You can use our “bias report system” to eradicate any
    insignia of NASCAR. More good news: If you plan to party, designer bullet-proof
    vests are now available at the student store for $1250 and (I’m just informed) health services is well-stocked with rape kits. Ever proactive, we’ve also expanded administration by five personnel to address a rash of ODs, most from rotgut. Progress on! Yours, one percenter

    Well, I said “schizophrenic” but maybe just a prophet not without honor save in his own country and on his own campus…

  • Tom Daly

    When I applied to WFU they sent you a nice book describing the college. In 1965 tuition was $500. A student working during the summer at minimum wage could earn about that amount. He or she would have to rely on the family for room and board, but that was about 15% of the median family income. Now the cost for a year exceed the US median family income.

    One of the reasons may be overhead. The business school has on its web page 98 non teaching positions to support 116 teaching positions (including adjunct, visiting and part time.) That does not include the centralized support provided by the university.

    Maybe the business school should be run more like a business.