Despite protests against the rising cost of tuition and worries about mounting student loan debt, the pay packages and benefits of public university presidents are growing, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. University leaders, however, argue that this kind of compensation is necessary to attract and keep the best administrators.
According to a yearly survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the 2014 median salary for college presidents was $428,250, which is up 7% from 2013 — and 50 times the median student tuition. 68 made more than President Obama‘s $495,964, notes Kyle Plantz of IJReview.
The survey examined 238 chief executives at 220 public universities in the US, breaking down their total compensation by base pay, bonus pay, severance, deferred compensation paid, deferred compensation set aside, and retirement. They also asked about ex-presidents, finding that 42 were still on the payroll.
Two presidents brought in more than $1 million, which is one fewer than in 2013: Rodney A. Erickson of Pennsylvania State University ($1.49 million) and R. Bowen Loftin of Texas A&M (who stepped down during the year but made $1.12 million). Third was Joseph A. Alutto of Ohio State at $996,000. Michael Young, who replaced Loftin, is receiving a $1 million base salary, a $200,000 housing allowance, and a $800,000 signing bonus.
Sandhya Kambhampati of The Chronicle said:
This year, we took a close look at the perks and benefits, and found that 80% of these presidents are getting housing and cars. There were also presidents who got maid service, personal trainers and food stipends. The list of benefits has grown from previous years.
Last month, the Senate Democratic Caucus of Illinois released a report on the “lavish perks” awarded to the leaders of state universities and community colleges, many of which escape the scrutiny of taxpayers, like club memberships, retirement plans, and retention bonuses. This investigation was a result of the controversial severance deal for Robert L. Breuder of the College of DuPage.
Senator Bill Cunningham, who led the investigation, detailed the importance of examining leaders’ compensation:
The average taxpayer just can’t fathom a public-university president getting a free country-club membership on tp of a $400,000 salary. If the folks sitting on university boards can’t sense the outrage that kind of thinking inspires, then they are too disconnected from the people they’ve been elected or appointed to represent.
Presidents at the other end of the list include University of California at Riverside Interim Chancellor Jane C. Conoley ($31,629 in total compensation) and President M. David Rudd at the University of Memphis, writes Andrew V. Pestano of UPI.
One president turned down a $1 million salary because he was in agreement that it was too much. Gregory Fenves, the incoming president of the University of Texas, felt that a $1 million base salary would upset his students and interfere with professional relationships, and suggested a $750,000 salary instead. In 2014, Robert L. Barchi, president of Rutgers University, returned his bonus of $90,000 and asked that it be put toward financial aid for undergraduate students.
The Chronicle conducted a separate survey of private schools, finding that three dozen earned at least $1 million in 2012. Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic University was awarded the most at $7.1 million, reports Tamar Lewin of the New York Times. Richard C. Levin of Yale, who stepped down in 2013, received a special payout of $8.5 million after making $1-1.4 million in preceding years.