The Highest-Paid Public University Presidents
The three highest paid public university leaders each took home more than $1,000,000 last fiscal year, and seven earned more than $700,000. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual data reveals why. To remain competitive with private universities with large endowments, public institutions have to pay up for administrative talent. However, for some, that means tapping into foundation resources and for others, it means falling behind.
The report ranked more than 250 high officials at public university systems, taking into account base pay plus bonus pay and other compensation. The highest paid public university official was President Michael Crow of Arizona State, who made an astounding $1,554,058. William H. McRaven of the University of Texas system and Michael K. Young of Texas A&M earned the highest base salaries public universities, McRaven getting $1.2 million and Young $1 million. According to the data, public university leaders were paid on average $464,000 last calendar year.
How can a public system like the University of Texas afford to pay three of its leaders seven figure salaries? “We’re seeing a lot more college presidential pay that’s supplemented with foundation dollars or donation dollars,” the report’s author, Dan Bauman, says. “The University of Texas chancellor’s entire compensation comes from donations. The president of Arizona State University was the number one highest earning college president public this year; $550,000 of his compensation came from money from the [university] foundation.”
McRaven’s salary comes from funds in “a quasi-endowment that the UT System established for the purpose of providing a permanent funding source for the Chancellor’s salary. The source of the quasi-endowment is donor gifts,” Bauman says.
The second and third highest paid university administrators were from the University of Texas System and Texas A&M, which have several campuses each. Arizona State University, home to this year’s highest paid public university administrator, is one of the largest universities in the country. All three systems have large foundations that can foot the bill.
Professor William Tierney of the University of Southern California, who researches university leadership performance, calls drawing compensation from foundations “a sleight of hand.” He says he has seen public universities claim they lack funding for tenured faculty while at the same time awarding large paychecks to their presidents: “There should be greater oversight that needs to come from state legislatures.”
The Chronicle of Higher Education has been publishing reports on college university pay for five years. Usually, pay increases 2-3% annually. This year it went up 5%.
Responding to criticism in the Texas Tribune, University of Texas Board Chairman Paul Foster said “our chancellor is essentially the CEO of one of the largest and most complex organizations in the state of Texas and one of the largest systems of higher education in the country, and we believe his compensation is reasonable and justified.”
Furthermore, these paychecks pale next to the biggest ones at private universities.The top 10 highest paid private school administrators all took home over $1.5 million. Wilmington University President Jack Varsalona took the prize at $5,449,405 and Mark S. Wrighton of Washington University in St. Louis trailed by over a million at $4,185,866. Also, Bauman points out that pay of private university presidents does not include other expenses offered, such as private planes and homes.
California has cracked down on public university compensation. “In some states, your hands are tied, and that’s something we’re sort of seeing in California,” Bauman says. “They have those restrictions on foundation money that can’t be used to supplement pay, and you see less substantial compensation packages offered to new candidates.”
However, California universities are finding ways to compete. A state audit of the University of California school system released a scathing report in which its offices were charged with failing to disclose funds and insufficiently justified salaries. “The implication [of the audit] is that the state legislature should have a greater say […]” Tierney says. “If the board finds out that the money isn’t being spent correctly, the president should be fired, not that that the legislature should take charge.”
“Public colleges have some different stakeholders — you obviously have the state legislature and the taxpayers–whereas private colleges can shrug off a public outcry,” Bauman says.
Below are the top ten paid public university administrators.
1. Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University $1,554,058
2. William McRaven, Chancellor, University of Texas system $1,500,000
3. John Sharp, Chancellor, Texas A&M University system office, $1,280,438
4. W. Kent Fuchs, President, University of Florida, $1,102,862
5. Michael A. McRobbie, President Indiana University system $1,067,074
6. Eric J. Barron, President, Pennsylvania State University at University Park, $1,039,717
7. Michael V. Drake, President, Ohio State University, $1,034,574
8. Michael K. Young, President, Texas A&M at College Station, $1,000,000
9. Jean E. Robillard, Interim President, University of Iowa, $929,045
10. Raymond Watts, President, University of Alabama at Birmingham, $890,000 Oxunub (115) dəfə