The news: According to a report by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 42 college presidents earned more that $1 million in compensation in 2011. That’s more than ever before — in 2010, 36 college presidents broke the $1 million mark.
The college president topping this year’s list? The University of Chicago’s Robert J. Zimmer, who took home $3.4 million in 2011. Following him were Northeastern University’s Joseph E. Aoun and Marist College’s Dennis J. Murray. The entire top 5 took home more than $2 million in 2011.
The median compensation for college presidents in 2011 was $410,523 — a 5% increase from 2010. 180 presidents earned more than $500,000 in 2011.
How it’s calculated: The Chronicle's list looks at total compensation per year, including salary, benefits and any deferred compensation. Zimmer, this year’s highest earner, for example, took home just shy of $1 million in base salary, the rest of his $3.4 million coming from elsewhere.
The Chronicle’s analysis also looked at the relationship between president compensation and total college spending. It found that for every $1 million spent by a college, an average of $5,466 went to the president.
This particular report, which is derived from tax-information from 500 schools, only looks at private colleges and universities with the largest endowments. But if you look at public school compensation, the median compensation is also over $400,000. Only four presidents earned more than $1 million in 2012 at public schools, but the top earner — Pennsylvania State University’s Graham Spanier — brought home around $3 million, even after being fired.
Does this matter? With student debt hitting the big $1 trillion mark in the United States, should it piss off students that their college presidents are making so much money? Or should they be consoled by the fact that while the cost of college is still going up, it’s increasing at a slower rate than seen in years?
Julia Ryan at The Atlantic points out that the presidents at the helm of colleges and universities could actually be making much more if they went into the private sector. Or, they could always switch occupations and decide to get into coaching.
For as much as college presidents are making these days, football coaches at big universities continue to make more. For most states, the highest paid public employee is a college football head coach.
Whether public or private, president or coach, the top names at colleges throughout the U.S. continue to make record earnings. For those of us still paying for our tuition, that might be just a little irksome.