Private college presidents' pay was up slightly

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Compensation for private college presidents has continued to drift upward, while the number crossing the $1 million barrier — a signal of prestige, and a magnet for criticism — held steady at 36, according to a new survey.

The latest annual compilation by The Chronicle of Higher Education covers data from 2010, due to lag time in the release of federal tax information. That year, median compensation for the 494 presidents in the survey — leaders of institutions with budgets of at least $50 million — was $396,649, or 2.8 percent higher than in last year’s survey. But median base salary fell slightly, by less than 1 percent.

The highest paid was Bob Kerrey, who was president of The New School in New York until December, 2010 before returning to Nebraska, where he made an unsuccessful run to return to the U.S Senate.

Kerrey’s total compensation over more than $3 million. His base salary was just over $600,000, but he received a $1.2 million retention bonus and more than $620,000 in deferred compensation.

It is common for such payments to inflate compensation for presidents in their final year in a position.

The highest base salary belonged to John Sexton of New York University and totaled $1.24 million out of $1.48 million total compensation.

Three public university presidents earned more than $1 million in 2011, led by Gordon Gee of Ohio State with total compensation of just under $2 million.

Then there’s the other end of the scale — presidents of roughly two dozen Roman Catholic institutions, whose compensation is zero. All are either clergy or members of religious orders.

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