Our Richest College Presidents

Annually the Chronicle of Higher Education releases its list of college presidents who earn a lot of money.

The top gold-plated academic administrators this year are:

1. Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: $7.1 million
2. John L. Lahey of Quinnipiac University: $3.8 million
3. Lee C. Bollinger of Columbia University: $3.4 million
4. Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania: $2.4 million
5. Charles R. Middleton of Roosevelt University: $1.7 million
6. Susan Hockfield of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $1.6 million
7. David W. Leebron of Rice University: $1.5 million
8. John E. Sexton of New York University: $1.4 million
9. Marc Tessier-Lavigne of Rockefeller University: $1.38 million
10. Richard C. Levin of Yale University: $1.37 million

The million-dollar-a-year club is curiously diverse, however, since these people represent a wide rage of universities in terms of selectivity and resources.

This list, which Jackson has led for a few years, is always a little difficult for university public relations, but getting paid $1.3 million a year isn’t objectively a problem; Yale, for instance, has plenty of money.

Ohio State took a lot of guff when it decided to give ex-President Gordon Gee a $5.8 million severance package, after paying him $1.6 million a year in salary. But during Gee’s time in Columbus he brought in $1.6 billion to the school. Some presidents are worth a lot of money.

But worth is complicated. John Sexton certainly raised the profile of NYU during his time as president, but he also hiked tuition by $18,000. The average NYU student debt is now $35,000.

But this never seems objectively troublesome to me, it’s only trouble if they’re doing a particularly crappy job.

Or if the college can’t really afford it. According to the Chronicle

On average, a private-college president’s salary accounted for about 0.5 percent of his or her institution’s overall budget in 2012.

The president with the greatest percentage of institutional budget devoted to presidential pay was John E. Klein, of Randolph College, in Virginia. He received $29,410 for every $1-¬million in expenditures, or just over 2.9 percent of the budget.

Jackson’s $7 million package took up a full 1.7 percent of Rensselaer’s entire 2012 budget.

Note that this information is from 2012 data. Hockfield and Levin have moved on from these positions.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer