Million Dollar Public University Presidents

public universityA recent study finds that the number of public university presidents earning in the excess of a million dollars has increased substantially in 2012-2013 as compared to the year before. The Chronicle of Higher Education, a national industry publication, concluded in its survey that nine public college presidents are now making more that $1 million in 2013 as opposed to four in 2012. The study took into account the salary, earned bonuses,  and their retirement-severance packages, as well as deferred pay. Deferred pay is an incentive model, wherein the president gets paid a certain bonus for staying in their position for a stipulated time period.

The median total compensation of the 256 presidents in the survey is $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year. These rates of increase seem to part of a growing trend, according to the Chronicle report. Between 2006 and 2012, spending on non-academic administrative positions, which includes university presidents, rose 65 percent, much faster than spending on student scholarships.

The staggering compensation earned by college presidents is shocking, given rising student debt and overall faculty disenfranchisement being seen on college campuses across the U.S. In 2012, student debt hit $1.2 trillion. While  students continue to pay ever-increasing tuition bills, universities are not using the money towards scholarships or well-paying academic positions. Instead, there is an increasing trend of universities hiring more part-time adjunct professors, who are lowly paid and do not get benefits such as health insurance instead of full-time tenure track professors.

A recent study done by the progressive think tank Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) looked at the correlation between high administrative compensation and dwindling student scholarships as well as cost-saving measures such as hiring adjuncts and found a disturbing trend that they call “unequal universities.”

According to Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, the co-authors of the IPS study, the public universities with the highest-paid presidents are spending twice the amount on administrative compensation as opposed to scholarships. Wood told the New York Times that even though it would be difficult to make a direct connection between high executive pay and increasing student debt or the decrease in high paying tenure track positions, it cannot be denied that universities with highly paid executives had more adjuncts, and more frequent tuition raises, among others.

The study listed Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and the University of Washington as some of the most “unequal universities” in the U.S.

The Chronicle study found that Ohio State University President Gordon Gee was on top of the compensation list. He earned over $6.1 million at the public university in 2013. Gee resigned after making some public gaffes while commenting about Roman Catholics, the University of Notre Dame and Southeastern Conference schools. He is now president of West Virginia University.

Other highly paid public university presidents include Bowen Loftin of Texas A&M University at College Station. Loftin was paid $1.6 million in 2013. Hamid Shirvani, the president of North Dakota University system earned approximately $1.3 million in 2013, for administering the 11-campus system. When Shirvani retired in June 2013, he received an additional $900,000 plus as a golden handshake. Renu Khator, who serves as the president of University of Houston’s main campus, earned about $1.26 million in 2013. Nearly half of Khator’s total compensation comes from bonus and deferred pay. This was above and beyond her $700,000 salary.

Other million dollar plus public university presidents include Sally Mason from the University of Iowa, Michael McRobbie of Indiana University at Bloomington, Michael Adams of the University of Georgia, Gordon Moulton of the University of South Alabama, and Mary Sue Coleman of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

However, the high compensation does not stop at public university presidents making in the excess of a million dollars. The Chronicle found that other positions such as athletic coaches made up 70 percent of the public university employees earning more than $1 million last year, and doctors another 20 percent.

Juxtaposed against adjunct professors with shaky job security and inadequate compensation, rising tuition costs that have far outstripped inflation rates, the million dollar-plus public university presidents are being deemed the one-percenters of the academic world.

By Monalisa Gangopadhyay


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