Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger speaks in 2013, a year he made $4.6 million.
Dave Kotinsky—Getty Images
By Kaitlin Mulhere
December 6, 2015

The median earnings of a private college president were $436,429 in 2013, up more than 5% from the year prior, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s latest annual report out today.

The top earner, Lee C. Bollinger of Columbia University, brought home a total of $4.6 million. He was one of 32 presidents with compensation packages worth more than $1 million.

Earlier this year, the Chronicle released data on the salaries of public college presidents. Their median pay for the 2013-2014 academic year was only slightly lower, at $428,250.

As tuition costs and student debt have ballooned in the past several years, the escalating pay and sometimes lavish benefits of college administrators have come under increasing scrutiny. Presidential candidate Donald Trump even got in on the criticism last week.

The 10 highest paid private college presidents in 2013 represented a variety of institutions, including Rockefeller University, a graduate-only school with 200 students, and High Point University, a small liberal arts school in North Carolina. Also on the list were the presidents of Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins, large universities with affiliated medical centers.

The highest earners’ total compensation figures include salaries and bonuses; benefits such as housing, travel, and club memberships; and often deferred payments that are promised for future years. On average, however, more than 85% of all the private college presidents’ income came in the form of base pay.

The table below shows how much each of the top earners took home in 2013. Salary information on the presidents of some 500 other institutions is available on the Chronicle’s database.

College (MONEY rank) President Base Salary Total Compensation Earnings per Student**
Columbia University (28) Lee C. Bollinger $1,170,200 $4,615,230 $167.29
University of Pennsylvania (254) Amy Gutmann $1,175,307 $3,065,746 $123.59
High Point University (714) Nido Qubein $662,851 $2,217,460 $504.08
Yeshiva University (*) Richard M. Joel $738,180 $2,503,794 $394.42
Vanderbilt University (24) Nicholas S. Zeppos $904,469 $2,147,452 $169.27
Tulane University (620) Scott S. Cowen $784,000 $1,634,000 $129.65
Johns Hopkins University (85) Ronald J. Daniels $981,325 $1,629,325 $76.24
Rockefeller University (*) Marc Tessier-Lavigne $1,045,450 $1,459,267 $6,982.19
New York University (354) John E. Sexton $1,242,636 $1,452,992 $29.48
University of Southern California (101) C.L. Nikias $1,047,563 $1,422,458 $33.51

*Yeshiva and Rockefeller aren’t ranked in MONEY’s Best Colleges.
**Earnings per student were calculated using the total student population (graduate and undergraduate) as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.

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