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By Ethan Wolff-Mann
July 18, 2016
Unicversity of Houston President Renu Khator with George H.W. Bush, who earned way less than her.
Unicversity of Houston President Renu Khator with George H.W. Bush, who earned way less than her.
Bob Levey—Getty Images

While Barack Obama is paid $400,000 for running the country, many college presidents are paid far more for running a school.

According to a new report from the Chronicle of Higher Education, presidents at public universities enjoyed a median salary of $431,000, which the Associated Press noted was a 4.3% raise. Leading the charge was University of Houston executive Renu Khator with $1.3 million in total compensation. Four other presidents topped the $1 million mark, effectively disproving the maxim that higher education pays poorly–at least for University of Oregon’s Michael R. Gottfredson, Texas A&M’s Michael R. Young, UT’s William H. McRaven, and Georgia State’s Mark P. Becker.

In terms of base pay, two presidents led the charge at $800,000, Michael V. Drake of Ohio State and Eric J. Barron of Penn State.

Best college education image

The Chronicle uses another useful metric to examine compensation—how many tuitions equal a presidential paycheck. UMass Amherst’s Kumble R. Subbaswamy earns the most tuitions per year with 282.2, beating the top two most compensated presidents by a significant margin thanks to the low tuition. Kumble “only” makes $483,620.

The third interesting metric used by the Chronicle’s data project is compensation in terms of expenses. Quentin Wheeler of SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry led that category with his salary representing $3,350 per $1 million of university expenditures.

Rising executive compensation has been called into question, especially considering the growing national conversations about college affordability.

Still, according to AP, Tilman Fertitta, chairman of University of Houston’s board of regents, responded to the report firmly, saying: “I can say unequivocally that Chancellor Khator’s salary is appropriate based on her stellar track record and the achievements she has helped the UH system and the University of Houston obtain.”

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Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

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Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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