By STEPHANIE SAUL DEC. 6, 2015
Despite pressure on institutions of higher learning to hold down costs, the
compensation of private college presidents continues to climb, up 5.6 percent
between 2012 and 2013 to a median of $436,000, according to an annual
The ranking of salaries at 497 colleges contained some expected names
among the top 10 earners in 2013, including Columbia University’s Lee C.
Bollinger, the longest-serving president of an Ivy League university. Mr.
Bollinger’s compensation totaled $4.6 million, which the university said
included $1.17 million in base pay, an incentive payment of $940,000, use of a
university residence, and other deferred compensation, placing him at No. 1 on
Ranking second is the University of Pennsylvania’s Amy Gutmann, who
received just over $3 million, according to the survey, by The Chronicle of
Higher Education, a publication that specializes in news for college faculty and
administrators. Ms. Gutmann’s compensation included a salary of about $1.17
million and a bonus of nearly $1.48 million according to the survey.
But the list also contained some surprises. Placing third is the president of
High Point University, a relatively obscure school in North Carolina with an
enrollment of about 4,000. The university’s president, Nido Qubein, received
$2.9 million, which included a $2.2 million deferred compensation
No. 4 is Richard M. Joel, president of Yeshiva University in New York,
regarded as the flagship college of Modern Orthodox Judaism. Mr. Joel’s
compensation, $2.5 million, was notable in light of Yeshiva’s ongoing financial
difficulties since 2008, when it lost about $100 million that had been invested
with Bernard Madoff, a former university trustee.
In 2009, Mr. Joel announced layoffs and a hiring and pay freeze.
Since then, the university’s bonds have been downgraded to below
investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, which last year cited
“continued weakening of the university’s financial viability” and a “rapid
deterioration of unrestricted liquidity.”
In a statement, Yeshiva University said Mr. Joel’s compensation in 2013
was because of a one-time payment that covered six years of deferred
compensation. Since then, Mr. Joel requested that his compensation be
reduced by $100,000 in 2014, and reduced by an additional $50,000 this year,
the university said. Mr. Joel recently announced that he would step down as
president in 2018 at the end of his current term.
Rounding out the Top 10 list were the presidents of Vanderbilt University,
Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University, Rockefeller University, New
York University and the University of Southern California. Their compensation
exceeded $1 million each.
In all, 32 university presidents received $1 million or more in
compensation during the year, a slight decline from the previous year, when
the number was 36. Since 2008, 77 presidents have appeared on the list of
millionaires at least once.
The survey is conducted annually by The Chronicle. This year, a similar
survey of public universities by The Chronicle revealed that salaries at those
institutions were also up, by 7 percent.
The data, reflecting the most recent period available in reports required
by the government, appears to show that even during a time when colleges are
under pressure to hold down costs, boards remain generous with their chief
“From talking to boards of trustees, often what we hear is that they’ll pay
whatever they have to to retain the talent at their institutions,” said Sandhya
Kambhampati, a database reporter for The Chronicle. “There’s a finite number
of people available for these positions.”
The chairman of Columbia’s board, Jonathan D. Schiller, praised Mr.
Bollinger in a statement released by the university. “Under his leadership, we
see Columbia is performing at a level and achieving a standing it has not
enjoyed in many years, solidifying its place at the top rank of the world’s great
universities,” the statement said.
Mr. Qubein’s compensation at High Point was dramatically higher than
compensation at similar universities, according to The Chronicle. Among
colleges considered peers were Elizabethtown, where Carl J. Strikwerda
received $316,299 in compensation, and Messiah, where Kim S. Phipps
received $359,531. Both those colleges are in Pennsylvania.
At High Point, Mr. Qubein has made news for a $2 billion improvement
campaign. A successful businessman and motivational speaker before
becoming president, Mr. Qubein has also donated part of his personal fortune
to the university, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
In a statement emailed to The New York Times, a university
spokeswoman, Pam Haynes, said Mr. Qubein had raised $275 million for the
university and was among its most generous donors. Quoting the university’s
board chairman, Richard Vert, the statement said, “It would be impossible to
compensate Dr. Qubein for the incredible results he delivers.”
Forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service covering the fiscal year
2013 reveal that the university has reported “business transactions with
related persons,” which can sometimes be regarded as presenting potential
conflicts of interest. For example, a company called Creative Services Inc.,
which provides public relations and marketing, is owned by Mr. Qubein’s
children, but the university said that the relationship predated Mr. Qubein’s
appointment as president. The university banks with BB and T,
where Mr. Qubein is on the board.