College presidents paid more than last year

In the midst of an economic recession, some American salaries are stagnant or decreasing. According to an annual survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, however, public university presidents’ salaries are on the rise, up 7.6 percent from last year.

The survey found that 14 presidents of public research universities made over $700,000 during the 2007–2008 academic year. The New York Times reported that last year, the presidents of Ohio State and Delaware State made over $1 million.

Although their salaries are not increasing as rapidly as their public counterparts, presidents of private research institutions make more on average than public university presidents.

It is not rare for the president of a private university to make over $1 million annually, sometimes even $2 million, as recorded in the survey.

Whether at public or private institutions, “in times of economic crisis and rising tuition, students, parents, trustees, and lawmakers are likely to take a closer look at whether presidents are worth the cost, given how worried families are about affording tuition as everyone is feeling a bit poorer,” Jeffrey Selingo, editor of The Chronicle, recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Some Carnegie Mellon students were surprised to learn that Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon makes $526,000.

“That’s more than the president of the United States makes!” said Dustin Haffner, a sophomore computer science major. After thinking about it a bit longer, she added, “He is a smart guy with a lot of credentials that could be working on Wall Street making a lot more money, so we’re lucky to have him focusing his efforts on making CMU a better place.”

Ben Neenan, a Heinz College master’s student in health care policy and management, agreed.

“Cohon is not a 9–5 type of guy. He has a vision for the campus and the community, and for all the things he does to achieve that vision, his salary is more than justified,” Neenan said. “I had a meeting with him two years ago, and his holistic yet simple approach to problems is pretty neat, and our campus is better off for it.”

Cohon actually makes less than most presidents of Pittsburgh universities, despite Carnegie Mellon outperforming them all in U.S. News & World Report rankings. According to the Post-Gazette, the presidents of Chatham University and the University of Pittsburgh made $734,576 and $590,000, respectively, in the 2006–2007 academic year.

Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, recently remarked in The New York Times that “in these hard economic times, apparently belt-tightening is for families and students, not university presidents.”