Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Survey of Pay for Presidents at Private Colleges an Eye-Opener

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Survey of Pay for Presidents at Private Colleges an Eye-Opener

Article excerpt

The Chronicle of Higher Education is out with its latest national survey of what private college and university presidents earn, and the results include several eye-popping extremes.

At one end of the spectrum are four multimillion-dollar earners, highest paid among them Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute president Shirley Ann Jackson with $7.1 million in total compensation, of which $6.2 million was in deferred compensation, bonus money and other earnings beyond her base pay.

What the leader of the Troy, N.Y., campus earned in 2012 - if not the most ever for a private, nonprofit campus leader - would "certainly would be in the conversation," said Jack Stripling, part of a team that produced the Chronicle's annual pay survey and related analysis.

At the other end of the spectrum are 28 leaders of church- affiliated institutions who run their campuses for no pay.

They include, in Western Pennsylvania, such names as Brother Norman Hipps, president of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, and the Rev. Gabriel Zeis, president of St. Francis University in Loretto.

In between the extremes are the overwhelming majority who earned more or less than the survey's median pay of almost $400,000. The reasons ranged from size, complexity and wealth of their institution to length of tenure, performance and worries that a president will be recruited away for higher pay.

The survey of 537 campus leaders released Sunday evening is for calendar year 2012, the most recent available for national comparison. It is separate from the Chronicle's look at public campus presidential pay, published each spring, and is likely to rekindle debate about precisely what a college president is worth.

Survey-wide, the median pay grew by 2.5 percent from the previous year, the Chronicle found. Thirty-six leaders received more than $1 million.

"Presidential compensation is and rightly should be a huge flashpoint in higher education, particularly at a time when the industry is under such enormous scrutiny, whether because of student debt or skepticism about the value of a college degree in the 21st century," said Mr. Stripling, a senior reporter with the Chronicle who covers compensation and leadership.

On the one hand, he said, presidential salaries, even the biggest ones, are so small measured against the school's overall finances that the issue is largely symbolic.

Still, he added, "Try telling that to a student who's having trouble paying the bill or a parent who is cutting a check [and] hoping it won't bounce."

While the no-pay presidency may not be realistic as an across- the-board model, Mr. Stripling said, the presence of those outliers is at least germane to the discussion.

"Should religious colleges be the only institutions in this country where pay and mission are so intimately intertwined? …

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