When President Obama announced that executive pay will be capped at companies that accept bailout funds, it revived a longstanding debate about whether the salaries of university presidents are excessive. Although this rule won't apply to educational institutions, some critics of the pay gap in higher education hope that the Obama Administration's action will trickle down to academia. After all, universities will be the recipients of billions of dollars in federal aid through the economic stimulus package, which allocates money for student financial aid, university infrastructure upgrades, and research grants.
University presidents may not be as generously compensated as their corporate counterparts, but their pay has been rising steeply over the past 15 years, especially compared with what college professors earn. The median income for public-university presidents in the 2007-08 academic year was $427,400. The average head of a private university* took home about $100,000 more.
We compiled this list of the 10 top-earning presidents at public and private universities using data from the Annual Executive Compensation Survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education. While these campus chiefs earn base salaries that fall well into the six figures, their compensation is supplemented with plenty of perks, including retention bonuses, retirement payouts, and the use of well-appointed homes and cars. Many of these administrators also serve on the boards of multiple corporations, but those earnings were not factored in.
*The data on private universities are from 2006-07. The Chronicle of Higher Education gleans this compensation information from tax filings. While there is less transparency on pay at private universities, total compensation figures include base salary, bonuses, deferred compensation, retirement pay, and other allowances.