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The nation's highest-paid private college presidents

Forty-two top executives at private colleges recently earned more than $1 million dollars in total compensation, according to a report released today by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In 2011 (the latest year for which data was available), the median total compensation for private college administrators was $410,523, which represented a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year. An earlier Chronicle report showed that the median pay for chief executives at public universities was $441,392, a 4.7 percent increase.

Robert  Zimmer, the president of the University of Chicago, was the highest-paid college president. He received total compensation of $3.4 million, which included a base pay of $918,000.

Here were the top 10 best-paid presidents in 2011:

  1. Robert Zimmer, U. of Chicago, $3,358,723
  2. Joseph Aoun, Northeastern U., $3,121,864
  3. Dennis Murray, Marist College, $2,688,148
  4. Lee Bollinger, Columbia U. $2,327,344
  5. Lawrence Bacow, Tufts U., $2,223,752
  6. Amy Gutman, U. of Pennsylvania, $2,091,764
  7. Anthony Catanese, Florida Institute of Technology, $1,884,008
  8. Esther Barazzone, Chatham U., $1,812,132
  9. Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, $1,752,642
  10. Richard Levin, Yale U., $1,652,543

The Chronicle analyzed the college presidents’ salaries in the context of each school’s budget. The median pay for the presidents relative to their budgets was $5,466 per $1 million of expenses. When measured in that way, the compensation of some presidents was surprising.

For instance, Esther Barazzone, president of Chatham University, an all-women’s college in Pittsburgh, received the highest compensation when compared to her school’s total revenues -- $37,545 in compensation per $1 million in expenditures. Barazzone made $1,059,604 more than the second-highest paid president of a similar institution.

While Chatham’s president received an outsized compensation package, the average indebtedness of the school’s graduates, according to the College Board, was a whopping $40,297.

Other presidents whose compensation towered over their institutions' revenues were, in order, James Douthat (Lycoming College) Lorna Duphiney Edmundson (Wilson College), Ronald Volpe (Hood College), Debra Townsley (William Peace University), Scott D. Miller (Bethany College) and Dennis Murray (Marist College).

In contrast, some presidents made significantly less when compensation was measured by operating budgets. Relative to its budget, Harvard University president Drew Gilpin Faust is one of the least well compensated executives relative to the school’s budget. Faust’s total compensation was $899,734, which pencils out to $230 for every $1 million in expenditures.

For the study, The Chronicle examined Internal Revenue Service records to determine the compensation for 550 executives at 500 private colleges and universities with the largest endowments.

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