Big Pay for College Presidents Doesn't Pay Off for Students
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What's the relationship between college presidents' pay and the value their schools deliver to students?
Not much, it seems.
That's what we discovered when we compared Money's just-released 2015 Best Colleges rankings, which evaluate schools on 21 measures of educational quality, affordability, and career earnings, with the latest available data on private college presidents' compensation, published by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The latter numbers are from 2012, but in all likelihood the salary figures have only gone up since then.
At a time when parents and students scrape to find the money for college, or go deep into debt to afford it, 36 private college presidents brought home more than $1 million each. Nearly 150 college presidents received more than $400,000, making them better paid than the president of the United States.
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Among the findings:
- The highest paid college president, Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, took home a base salary of $945,000 plus another $276,474 in bonuses, $31,874 in nontaxable benefits, and $5.8 million in deferred compensation, for a stunning $7.1 million in total. That works out to more than $1,000 per student at her school. And where does her school fall in our value rankings? A good but not spectacular 147.
- In second place for total compensation was Quinnipiac University's John L. Lahey, whose take that year was close to $3.8 million. You'll find his school further down our rankings, at 246.
- Coming in at No. 5 on the highest paid list was Charles R. Middleton, then president of Roosevelt University in Chicago, whose total compensation was nearly $1.8 million. You won't find his school in our rankings at all; its six-year graduation rate was too low to make the cut.
In fact, of the top 10 schools in Money's value rankings of 736 colleges, only one shows up in the list of 10 highest paid presidents: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which we rated No. 3. Its then-president, Susan Hockfield, earned a total compensation package of about $1.7 million, putting her in sixth place for pay.
Here are the 10 highest paid presidents of private colleges, based on the Chronicle of Higher Education data, along with how their schools did in Money's latest rankings. And to see how much their counterparts at public colleges are making, check out this earlier report.
10. University of Chicago
Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago
Total compensation: $1,369,856
Base salary: $916,620
Earnings per student: $89.86
Money Best Colleges rank: 127
9. Yale University
Richard C. Levin, former president of Yale University
Total compensation: $1,375,365
Base salary: $1,099,221
Earnings per student: $115.52
Money Best Colleges rank: 21
8. New York University
John E. Sexton, president of New York University
Total compensation: $1,404,484
Base salary: $1,240,614
Earnings per student: $31.55
Money Best Colleges rank: 354
7. Rice University
David W. Leebron, president of Rice University
Total compensation: $1,522,502
Base salary: $795,305
Earnings per student: $234.81
Money Best Colleges rank: 14
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Susan Hockfield, former president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology*
Total compensation: $1,679,097
Base salary: $713,106
Earnings per student: $150.07
Money Best Colleges rank: 3
*Hockfield served in this role for only part of the year in 2012.
5. Roosevelt University
Charles R. Middleton, former president of Roosevelt University*
Total compensation: $1,762,956
Base salary: $465,928
Earnings per student: $277.94
Money Best Colleges rank: Roosevelt's six-year graduation rate is below the national median, so it was screened out of the rankings.
*Middleton retired this year.
4. University of Pennsylvania
Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania
Total compensation: $2,473,952
Base salary: $1,123,376
Earnings per student: $100.06
Money Best Colleges rank: 12
3. Columbia University
Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University
Total compensation: $3,389,917
Base salary: $1,012,707
Earnings per student: $128.06
Money Best Colleges rank: 28
2. Quinnipiac University
John L. Lahey, president of Quinnipiac University
Total compensation: $3,759,076
Base salary: $980,000
Earnings per student: $436.39
Money Best Colleges rank: 246
1. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Total compensation: $7,143,312
Base salary: $945,000
Earnings per student: $1,072.89
Money Best Colleges rank: 147