07 Dec

Salaries of Private College Presidents Continue to Rise, Chronicle Survey Finds


Salaries of Private College Presidents Continue to Rise, Chronicle Survey Finds

Lee C. Bollinger of Columbia University, second from left, was the most highly compensated private college president in 2013, according to a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

Despite pressure on institutions of higher learning to hold down costs, the compensation of private college presidents continues to climb, up 5.6 percent between 2012 and 2013 to a median of $436,000, according to an annual survey.
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The ranking of salaries at 497 colleges contained some expected names among the top 10 earners in 2013, including Columbia University’s Lee C. Bollinger, the longest-serving president of an Ivy League university. Mr. Bollinger’s compensation totaled $4.6 million, which the university said included $1.17 million in base pay, an incentive payment of $940,000, use of a university residence, and other deferred compensation, placing him at No. 1 on the list.

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Ranking second is the University of Pennsylvania’s Amy Gutmann, who received just over $3 million, according to the survey, by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a publication that specializes in news for college faculty and administrators. Ms. Gutmann’s compensation included a salary of about $1.17 million and a bonus of nearly $1.48 million according to the survey.
Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania ranked second in compensation, the survey found. Credit Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

But the list also contained some surprises. Placing third is the president of High Point University, a relatively obscure school in North Carolina with an enrollment of about 4,000. The university’s president, Nido Qubein, received $2.9 million, which included a $2.2 million deferred compensation distribution.

No. 4 is Richard M. Joel, president of Yeshiva University in New York, regarded as the flagship college of Modern Orthodox Judaism. Mr. Joel’s compensation, $2.5 million, was notable in light of Yeshiva’s ongoing financial difficulties since 2008, when it lost about $100 million that had been invested with Bernard Madoff, a former university trustee.

In 2009, Mr. Joel announced layoffs and a hiring and pay freeze.

Since then, the university’s bonds have been downgraded to below investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, which last year cited “continued weakening of the university’s financial viability” and a “rapid deterioration of unrestricted liquidity.”

In a statement, Yeshiva University said Mr. Joel’s compensation in 2013 was because of a one-time payment that covered six years of deferred compensation. Since then, Mr. Joel requested that his compensation be reduced by $100,000 in 2014, and reduced by an additional $50,000 this year, the university said. Mr. Joel recently announced that he would step down as president in 2018 at the end of his current term.

Rounding out the Top 10 list were the presidents of Vanderbilt University, Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University, Rockefeller University, New York University and the University of Southern California. Their compensation exceeded $1 million each.

In all, 32 university presidents received $1 million or more in compensation during the year, a slight decline from the previous year, when the number was 36. Since 2008, 77 presidents have appeared on the list of millionaires at least once.

The survey is conducted annually by The Chronicle. This year, a similar survey of public universities by The Chronicle revealed that salaries at those institutions were also up, by 7 percent.

The data, reflecting the most recent period available in reports required by the government, appears to show that even during a time when colleges are under pressure to hold down costs, boards remain generous with their chief executives.

“From talking to boards of trustees, often what we hear is that they’ll pay whatever they have to to retain the talent at their institutions,” said Sandhya Kambhampati, a database reporter for The Chronicle. “There’s a finite number of people available for these positions.”

The chairman of Columbia’s board, Jonathan D. Schiller, praised Mr. Bollinger in a statement released by the university. “Under his leadership, we see Columbia is performing at a level and achieving a standing it has not enjoyed in many years, solidifying its place at the top rank of the world’s great universities,” the statement said.

Mr. Qubein’s compensation at High Point was dramatically higher than compensation at similar universities, according to The Chronicle. Among colleges considered peers were Elizabethtown, where Carl J. Strikwerda received $316,299 in compensation, and Messiah, where Kim S. Phipps received $359,531. Both those colleges are in Pennsylvania.

At High Point, Mr. Qubein has made news for a $2 billion improvement campaign. A successful businessman and motivational speaker before becoming president, Mr. Qubein has also donated part of his personal fortune to the university, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

In a statement emailed to The New York Times, a university spokeswoman, Pam Haynes, said Mr. Qubein had raised $275 million for the university and was among its most generous donors. Quoting the university’s board chairman, Richard Vert, the statement said, “It would be impossible to compensate Dr. Qubein for the incredible results he delivers.”

Forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service covering the fiscal year 2013 reveal that the university has reported “business transactions with related persons,” which can sometimes be regarded as presenting potential conflicts of interest. For example, a company called Creative Services Inc., which provides public relations and marketing, is owned by Mr. Qubein’s children, but the university said that the relationship predated Mr. Qubein’s appointment as president. The university banks with BB&T, where Mr. Qubein is on the board.

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