Three chief executives of public colleges earned more than $1 million in total compensation during the 2010-11 academic years, according to a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The median total compensation of the 199 public college presidents surveyed was $421,395, up 2.9 percent from 2009-10, the survey found, while the median base pay, $383,800, increased 1.3 percent.
With state financing for public universities at its lowest levels, executive pay is becoming a volatile issue in many states. A typical public university president earns about 3.1 times as much as the average full professor at any given school, according to The Chronicle.
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Jack Stripling, the Chronicle reporter who covers university leaders, pointed to the California State University system and the University of Minnesota, in The Chronicle, as hotbeds for heated debates regarding executive pay.
"Even though Cal State isn't in the top tier of pay, there's a lot of talk about what it means for the president to make six figures when the faculty hasn't had raises in years, tuition is increasing and people are losing their jobs," Stripling told The New York Times.
E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State University was the highest-paid president, earning $1,992,221 in total compensation - 12.3 times the compensation for the average full professor at Ohio State. His base pay was $814,156, with the rest coming as a bonus and deferred compensation.
The second-highest earner in the Chronicle survey was Michael D. McKinney, the former chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, who was paid $1,966,347 and stepped down last July. His base pay was $444,847, with the rest coming from terminal pay and deferred compensation. Because he was a system head, the survey did not provide a comparison of his compensation and that of professors.
Graham Spanier, who lost his job at Pennsylvania State University after the sexual abuse scandal involving a football coach, ranked third, earning $1,068,763, or 6.5 times as much as the average full professor there.
The data on professorial compensation, which includes both pay and benefits, came from the American Association of University Professors.
Source: The New York Times; Chronicle of Higher Education