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
[email protected]

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.