US public college presidents pocket 7% pay rise

But new report reveals that the president was not the highest-paid person on campus at more than half of institutions

June 9, 2015
Pennsylvania State University
Source: iStock

The average US public college president earned just over $428,000 (£280,000) in the 2014 financial year – an annual increase of almost 7 per cent – according to a new report by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The rise means that presidents made, on average, nearly 3.8 times more than a typical full-time professor.

Two leaders surveyed received a salary of more than $1 million (£650,000): Rodney A. Erickson, former president of Pennsylvania State University, and R. Bowen Loftin, former president of Texas A&M University.

However, the report claims that Erickson’s rise to the top position is largely because he took ownership of his university-sponsored life-insurance plan worth $586,000 (£380,000), while Loftin’s earnings included a severance package of $850,000 (£560,000) paid out last year.

Last month Gregory Fenves, the new president at the University of Texas at Austin negotiated a lower salary, after claiming: “$1 million is too high for a public university."

Despite the high presidential salaries, at 122 of the 220 public universities surveyed the leader was not the highest-paid person on campus, with that title most often going to athletic coaches and medical faculty instead. Of the highest-paid people in those two groups, 62 earned more than $1 million.

The report also reveals that 80 per cent of public college presidents received accommodation and cars in 2014.

The study was based on a survey of 220 public colleges and includes analysis of 238 leaders, including presidents whose tenures began or ended during the 2014 financial year. The salaries are based on reviews of colleges’ tax forms and filings with the US Department of Education and include the president’s base salary and any bonus, severance and deferred compensation.

A total of 42 former leaders remained on the payroll of the institutions they led, usually because they served as professors or in advisory roles to the current leaders.

The most recent data on private college presidents comes from the 2012 calendar year, and includes information on 537 chief executives from 497 private non-profit colleges. That year 36 presidents earned at least $1 million, with the typical leader earning close to $400,000 (£260,000).

View the full report here.

The top 10 earners among public college presidents in the 2014 financial year

Rank Name Institution Total compensation ($)
1 Rodney Erickson Pennsylvania State University 1,494,603
2 R. Bowen Loftin Texas A&M University 1,128,957
3 Joseph Alutto Ohio State University 996,169
4 Elson Floyd Washington State University 877,250
5 Paula Allen-Meares University of Illinois at Chicago 872,458
6 Francisco Cigarroa University of Texas System 864,660
7 Renu Khator University of Houston 850,000
8 Patrick Harker University of Delaware 800,156
9 Michael McRobbie Indiana University at Bloomington 778,143
10 Charles Steger Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 745,195

N.B. Renu Khator received a single salary for a dual appointment as chancellor of the university system and president of the University of Houston

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