Feb 20, 2016

Just the facts: Highest paid college presidents

Columbia University

Despite whatever pressure may exist on campuses to keep costs down, the compensation of college presidents continues to rise. For private college presidents, compensation rose 5.6 percent between 2012 and 2013, to a median of $436,000, according to an annual survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education.  

A similar survey of public universities revealed that salaries at those institutions were up by seven percent. Specifically, the median salary for those in office for the full year was $428,250.

In all, 32 private and 2 public university presidents received at least $1 million in compensation during the year. This represented a slight decline from the previous year, when the total was 36. But note that five college presidents earned more than $2 million in salary and benefits:   Lee Bollinger at Columbia University, Amy Gutmann at the University of Pennsylvania, Nido Qubein at High Point University, Richard Joel at Yeshiva University, and Nicholas Zeppos at Vanderbilt University.

For the record, since 2008, 77 presidents have appeared on the list of millionaires at least once.  And  last year’s top earner, Shirley Ann Jackson, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), posted a decrease in compensation of almost $6 million, dropping her down to number 14 on this year’s list.

Yet despite what appear to be huge compensation packages, the president is not always the top-paid employee at nearly a quarter of private colleges. Coaches were the top earners seven percent of the time.

Locally, the highest paid college presidents are Ronald Daniels at Johns Hopkins, Steven Knapp at GW, Sidney Ribeau at Howard, Cornelius Kerwin at American, Jerry Falwell at Liberty, John DeGioia at Georgetown, Edward Ayers at the University of Richmond, and Charles Steger at Virginia Tech.

The updated compensation report came from data compiled by The Chronicle on 558 chief executives at 498 private nonprofit colleges and 238 chief executives at 220 public universities and systems.  A handful of colleges and universities refused to provide data.

Highest paid private college presidents in 2013

  • Lee Bollinger, Columbia University:  $4,615,230
  • Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania:  $3,065,746
  • Nido Qubein, High Point University:  $2,909,148
  • Richard Joel, Yeshiva University:  $2,503,794
  • Nicholas Zeppos, Vanderbilt University:  $2,147,452
  • Scott Cowen, Tulane University:  $1,634,000
  • Ronald Daniels, Johns Hopkins University:  $1,629,325
  • Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Rockefeller University:  $1,459,267
  • John Sexton, New York University:  $1,452,992
  • C.L. Max Nikias, University of Southern California:   $1,422,458
  • Victor Boschini, Texas Christian University:  $1,364,696
  • Robert Zimmer, University of Chicago:  $1,337,869
  • Donna Shalala, University of Miami:  $1,309,328
  • Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:  $1,304,445
  • John Fry, Drexel University:  $1,288,645

Highest paid public college presidents

  • Rodney Erickson, Pennsylvania State University:  $1,494,603
  • R. Bowen Loftin, Texas A&M University at College Station:  $1,128,957
  • Joseph Alutto, Ohio University:  $996,169
  • Elson Floyd, Washington State University:  $877,250
  • Paula Allen-Meares, University of Illinois at Chicago:  $872,458
  • Francisco Cigarroa, University of Texas system:  $864,660
  • Renu Khator, University of Houston:  $850,000
  • Patrick Harker, University of Delaware:  $800,156
  • Charles Steger, Virginia Tech:  $745,195
  • Robert Witt, University of Alabama system:  $745,000
  • Robert Barchi, Rutgers University at New Brunswick:  $739,624
  • Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida:  $719,675
  • John Sharp, Texas A&M University system office:  $708,435
  • Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor:  $703,357
  • Eli Capilouto, University of Kentucky:  $688,000

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