At a time of soaring college debt and steady increases in tuition, the presidents of the nation’s public colleges earned nearly 7 percent more in 2013-2014 than in the previous fiscal year, according to an annual survey.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, a national publication that covers the industry, found the typical public college president earned just over $428,000 in the 2014 fiscal year, up from $401,000 the year before.
Topping the list was Rodney A. Erickson, the former president of Penn State University, who took in nearly $1.5 million in his final year at the helm. Another former president, R. Bowen Loftin of Texas A&M University, earned just over $1.1 million in 2013-2014, according to the survey.
The Chronicle’s analysis includes 238 campus leaders at 220 public colleges. Not all schools responded to the survey.
Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi was the highest paid public college president in New Jersey and the 12th best compensated in the nation, the Chronicle found.
Barchi earned total compensation of $739,624, including $650,000 in base pay and a $90,000 bonus. Though he donated the bonus back to the university — after deducting the taxes owed — it counts against his total income.
The figures released by the Chronicle do not include other perks of the job, including the use of a home and a vehicle.
Barchi, for example, lives in a university-owned home in Piscataway valued at $1.1 million.
Joel S. Bloom, president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, ranked second in New Jersey and 34th in the nation, with total compensation of $590,000 in the 2014 fiscal year.
Nancy Cantor, the chancellor at Rutgers-Newark, took in $181,437 for the part of the year she worked, according to the survey. NJ Advance Media has previously reported she will make $385,000 over the full year. Cantor also is eligible for a bonus up to $38,500.
In performing the analysis, Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Sandhya Kambhampati said she found an increased willingness by public college trustees to boost salaries in an effort to keep presidents they like.
“Boards are saying that in order to keep the pay competitive with the rest of the marketplace, they’ll pay whatever it takes to retain their presidents,” Kambhampati said. “So even if that means paying $650,000, they’ll do it, though that varies by institution and individual.”
In general, the analysis found, the compensation for public college presidents was about 50 times the cost of in-state tuition. In Barchi’s case, it was 55 times the in-state tuition cost, Kambhampati said.
While there is no data to support a correlation between tuition and presidents’ pay, she said colleges are sensitive to a possible backlash over the executive salaries.
In one unusual case, Gregory L. Fenves, the new president of the University of Texas at Austin, declined a $1 million salary earlier this year because he feared it would poison his relationship with the Legislature, according to published reports. Fenves earns $750,000 a year.
Rising tuition costs and ballooning college debt have become an urgent concern in recent years, with state and federal lawmakers introducing bills to stem increases. Yet progress on the issue has been slow.
Only two New Jersey colleges — Ramapo College, a public school in Mahwah, and the College of St. Elizabeth, a private Catholic college in Convent Station — froze tuition rates last year.
Tuition at the remainder of the state’s four-year colleges and universities increased between 1.3 percent and 4.7 percent in 2014-15, a survey by NJ Advance Media found last year.
The Chronicle changed its methodology in calculating the median salary in its most recent analysis. In previous years, it included a percentage of deferred compensation even if a university president did not collect the money until later. Deferred compensation will now be counted in the year it is collected.
The change, applied retroactively to 2010, significantly lowered the median salary. For example, last year the publication said the median salary for public college presidents stood at $479,000 in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. That figure has been revised down to $401,000.
See the entire list of highest paid Public College Presidents here.
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