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College Presidents’ High Pay, Short Stay


July 20, 2016
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
President Obama gets paid $400,000 per year to serve as President of the United States of America. Many college presidents get paid more for running a school than they would for being the leader of the free world, according to a new report from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Presidents at public universities received a median salary of $431,000 in the 2015 fiscal year, with a 4.3 percent increase. Five presidents have even entered the million-dollar club, earning as much as $1.3 million annually. While the pay might be quite generous, being a college president has quickly become a job that's very hard to keep.

President Obama gets paid $400,000 per year to serve as President of the United States of America. Many college presidents get paid more for running a school than they would for being the leader of the free world, according to a new report from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Presidents at public universities received a median salary of $431,000 in the 2015 fiscal year, with a 4.3 percent increase. Five presidents have even entered the "million-dollar club", earning as much as $1.3 million annually. While the pay might be quite generous, being a college president has quickly become a job that's very hard to keep.

High-profile resignations or firings are becoming commonplace in the world of higher education. From heated race issues to sexual assault cases, being a college or university president has become more complex than it was a decade ago, according to The Washington Post. In addition to administrative responsibilities, presidents are increasingly responsible for pleasing alumni, faculty, and students because, "at any one time, one of those groups is upset about something." The University of Houston's President Renu Khato earned the highest salary at $1.3 million in 2015. Former University of Oregon President Mark Gottfredson followed with a total compensation of $1,215,142 and an additional $940,000 severance payout after he resigned amid controversy over the school's mishandling of a sexual assault case.

College presidents are taking on different roles, and future leadership may require individuals who don't necessarily follow "typical pathways through academia" and who don't come from traditional backgrounds. Candidates may need to keep up with evolving trends in teaching, learning and technology as well as being well-versed in finances as opposed to following conventional academic careers such as scholars, professors, and researchers. Only 30 percent of sitting provosts actually want to become a college president which is daunting, considering many of current college and university presidents are expected to retire. Who will rise up to the high-pay, high-turnover challenge?

In your opinion, should college and university residents get paid such high salaries or take a pay cut? Leave us your thoughtful comments below.

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Elizabeth T.  on  7/28/2016 3:49:59 PM commented:

I believe that college presidents should take a pay cut. I do not think that they deserve that high of a salary, especially if the President of the United States earns less. Some argue that the salary is fair due to the amount of responsibility and stress that comes with being the president of a college. I disagree with that argument because a college president is responsible for fewer people and tasks than the President of the United States. Also, stress is a part of any job so that is not a good reason to have an enormous salary. A college president is responsible for providing students a place to learn and build a career for themselves. The students are responsible for what they do with that education. Therefore, I argue that if the salary was lowered, the new revenue could be put towards scholarships and campus facilities to make the overall experience for a college student easier as well as more efficient.

Aunna M.  on  7/28/2016 1:44:38 PM commented:

I don't believe that college presidents should get paid as high. I'm lab technician at a college where I was once a student, I have seen the political side of the education system from a student and employee perspective. Our college recently went on strike for the first time since the 70's because our college president was mismanaging money and overspending on things that do not benefit the student body. The overspending was hurting students by cutting programs that shouldn't have been cut. Our president finally resigned, most likely because of the bitterness of the faculty and student body. Presidents carry a lot of responsibility, so yes, the pay accounts for the pressure; but, why would we fund a president that wouldn't even address her student's questions because she knows she was in the wrong? When students are struggling to make ends meet, when they have to take quarters off to save up for the next one, top dog salaries should be cut- fund your students first.

Tiffani H  on  7/27/2016 9:25:30 AM commented:

No, I don't think that they should get paid such high salaries. The amount of money that they are receiving is more than necessary to live on. The money in which they are not using could be used for more important things, such as giving high school and college students scholarships in order to pay the high tuitions for college. Many people want to attend college, but cannot afford it. With the help of scholarships it makes their dreams a little more realistic. Any amount of scholarships are helpful, so they should help out college students, since college is what has made them so successful n they should understand he struggles college students go through and should want to help.

Shayla j  on  7/26/2016 7:30:59 PM commented:

In my opinion, the president does do a lot at a university but it depends on the state. A lot of governors want to cut education funding (which I don't agree with). When cutting funding a lot of universities and schools take action by cutting jobs of educators who have worked for the school for quite some time. I believe that educators are the most important part of a school. They are the ones molding minds. I do not think the president should get paid as much as the president of the free world. Nor do I think educators get paid enough for the amount of time and work they put in to help students get a good education. Then it again it also depends on the school and whether or not it has enough money to pay all of its employers. Its all a cycle really so its hard to just say whether or not I think someone should get paid more or get their salary cut. In my opinion if that person is truly working hard for what they are passionate for then you get what you pay for I guess.

Ameerah D  on  7/26/2016 7:22:31 PM commented:

Ummm.. The president of the united states should definitely be payed more. The united states president deals with what college presidents deal with but on a bigger scale. Imagine that. But I do agree that presidents could be nice and donate to their own school here and there.

Eden D.  on  7/25/2016 11:28:42 PM commented:

As a future college student, searching for a good college is a difficult task. Many colleges are under looked simply because they are less promoted. The role of the President of the college is to ensure that the university achieves its highest level of potential. To do so, he or she must find different events or advertising opportunities to show all that the school has to offer. What better funds to use than the president themselves. Not only are these presidents investing in a stable and successful institution, but also in future leaders and successful individuals that attend that college. Financial aid is become more and more scarce. How nice would it be for a student to be told he or she is getting money from the president of the school. If I were that student, I would feel obligated to make the most out of my college experience. Although it may not seem necessary, presidents of colleges should be paid high salaries because their money is not solely their own, but for the good of the college itself.

Emily H.  on  7/20/2016 8:25:50 PM commented:

College presidents are a big players when it comes to forming the hearts and minds of students. Consider the impact one person (let alone an entire graduating class) has on society. With that in mind, college boards ought to ask themselves "Who do we want to form and help 'make or break' our future generations'?" Do they really want someone who is all about the paycheck in this position? That being said, being a college president is a tough job. I would imagine that they do have nights that keep them up mulling over a multitude of issues ranging from college athletics to academics to scandals . . . if it is happening in his or her college, it is up for the president's consideration. It seems right and just that they receive a generous compensation. I would suggest that a college president's salary only increase at a rate more or less the same as the salary of other employees in higher education administration.

Diamond G.  on  7/20/2016 5:11:57 PM commented:

Hi I'm hoping to receive a scholarship to get out of my situation. To get out of the hood. Thank you.

caniyah c  on  7/20/2016 12:43:38 PM commented:

with the presidential debate going on now, it's a surprise the office did not go in an uproar.

Jaegwon Oh  on  7/20/2016 10:29:48 AM commented:

I am Korean student who is going to go to music college in America. The colleges in America cost way higher than the other countries. A lot of people want to go to various colleges in America. However the tuition makes them hesitate. So how about have college residents take a pay cut and lower the tuition? Students are the future. They should get invested. There are a lot of students who have great skill but have no money so they couldn't go ti college. In fact even if the salary of college residents get lower, they still make a lot of money.

Maame Eghan  on  7/20/2016 10:20:12 AM commented:

They shouldn't because it feels as though that's where our college tuition is going

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