As Tuition For Public Colleges Jumps, Salaries Of University CEOs Climb

June 8, 2015  |  

The average tuition for public colleges jumped by a whopping 29 percent since 2007-2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile, during the same period, university chief executives pocketed a seven percent raise, CNN Money reports.

Let’s put these stats into perspective. Over the past seven years, tuition fees increased by $2,068. At the same time, public university presidents took home $428,000 in 2014 — this is 3.8 times the average salary of a full-time professor.

The highest-earning university CEO was Pennsylvania State’s Rodney Erickson, according to a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Education. Erickson raked in a whopping $1.5 million in 2013-2014. He snagged the chief executive position amid the sexual abuse scandal in 2011 and he stepped down last year.

“His compensation included a base pay of $633,336, bonus and severance totaling a combined $275,000, and retirement pay of $78,000,” CNN Money wrote. “On top of that, he received $586,267 in deferred compensation.”

Deferred compensation is a lump sum given to university presidents after they’ve served as CEO for a specific amount of time.

The second-highest paid public university CEO is R. Bowen Loftin, president of Texas A&M. He earned $1.1 million in 2014. His base pay was just $155,000, but since he stepped down from his position last year, he received a severance package of $850,000, a deferred compensation $123,432, and retirement pay of $100,000.

There’s a pattern here. CNN Money points out that six of the 10 highest-earning public university presidents resigned from their positions. Their departures grant them gratuitous pay packages that shoot them to the top of the list.

The highest paid college CEO of all time, according to the Chronicle, is the former president of Ohio State University and the current CEO of West Virginia University, E. Gordan Gee. He raked in more than $5 million in 2013.

“Since 2010, nine public college leaders have crossed the $1 million mark, some more than once,” CNN Money wrote.

Pay for public university presidents is rising, but their salaries pale in comparison to the earnings of private university CEOs. In 2012, 36 private college presidents raked in more than $1 million. The highest earning private university CEO, in 2012, was Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Shirley Ann Jackson with a whopping $7.1 million in compensation.

Chronicle‘s analysis looked at 238 chief executives at 220 public colleges in the U.S.

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