Salaries of public college presidents rise, median tops $400K

NEW YORK — Salaries of presidents of U.S. public universities rose almost 5 percent in the last fiscal year, even as tuition rose and student debt soared, with the median pay package topping $400,000, according to a report released on Sunday.

Penn State's Graham Spanier was the top earner last year at the time he was fired over the Jerry Sandusky scandal, according to the study by the Chronicle of Higher Education, though his compensation was inflated by $2.4 million in severance pay and deferred compensation.

The median total compensation for the public university presidents in fiscal year 2011-2012 was $441,392, the study found. Four of the presidents earned more than $1 million, and the median base pay jumped 2 percent to $373,800.

Spanier received total compensation of $2.9 million, the same fiscal year that he was fired for his handling of the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Jay Gogue of Auburn University in Alabama, E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State University, and Alan Merten of George Mason University in Virginia, who has since left his position, also received more than $1 million in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Gee had the highest base pay, at $830,439, which accounted for 44 percent of his total compensation.

Spanier - charged with two other former Penn State officials in the Sandusky case - is awaiting trial for perjury and obstruction of justice in what a grand jury called a "conspiracy of silence" to cover up Sandusky's crimes. All three men have pleaded not guilty.

Spanier's base pay was $350,959, and he received an additional $2.4 million in severance pay and deferred compensation.

Deferred compensation plans give executives a lump sum after they serve for a certain length of time and are common in presidential contracts because they serve as retention incentives, according to the Chronicle.

Sandusky, 69, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was found guilty of abusing 10 boys he targeted through a charity he founded for at-risk youth. He is serving a 30-to-60-year prison sentence.

The Chronicle of Higher Education survey used federal tax filings to analyze the base pay, benefits and deferred compensation plans of 212 presidents at 191 public research institutions for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The Chronicle surveyed compensation at private colleges in 2010, and found that 36 private college presidents earned more than $1 million. The median pay of the 494 presidents surveyed was $397,860.


kevin 2 years, 3 months ago

well, tuition pays for all those nice sports fields so why not overpay school heads? I wonder how easy it is to get those big raises?


toby 2 years, 3 months ago

Public High School principals make over $130K. Maybe we should all go into the lurning biznes.


Say_that_again 2 years, 3 months ago

kevin - toby: if you think that salaries of the CEOs of public institutions are too high at 400K and 130K, then you must be really upset with the CEOs of smaller companies whose bonuses are larger than that. If you really want to complain about salaries, then you should talk about over paid coaches - the highest paid public employees in most states. http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/05/12/american-decline/


LilburnsFuture 2 years, 3 months ago

You may want to compare apples with oranges. CEOs of companies are also compensated with shares. The better the company does, the more the shares are worth. The worse, the less the shares are worth. If the CEO continues to perform poorly, the board members can fire a CEO. College professors once they are tenured, are no longer graded on performance and could stay until they desire. They get at least cost of living adjustments and likely a pension. But I digress, we are comparing professors with CEOs.


Haughton 2 years, 3 months ago

The salaries of the actual educators should be higher and the administrators should be significantly lowered. The public sector has proven that they don't know how to spend money properly.

Athletic boosters make up the bulk of what coaches are paid. This is highly driven by sports media and advertisers. It would be nice if more private funds were put towards academics, but that will not happen.

Unless you are a stockholder or owner of a small private company, then it really is none of your concern what they earn or do with their money. As long as they are within the letter of the law, then our opinion doesn't matter.


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