College Heads’ Salaries On Rise

University presidents’ salaries continue to rise nationwide but leaders of the most prestigious private institutions aren’t necessarily at the front of the pack, according to a survey published yesterday by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

University President Lawrence H. Summers earned $529,327 in salary and benefits in fiscal year 2003—placing him sixth among eight Ivy League presidents in total compensation.

That’s substantially more than the University paid his predecessor, Neil L. Rudenstine, a prodigious fundraiser who took home $421,081 in his last year as president in 2001.

Rising compensation inside Mass Hall reflects a nationwide surge in university presidents’ compensation packages. In Fiscal Year 2002, 39 university presidents earned over $500,000. One year later, 59 presidents cleared the half-million-dollar mark, according to the Chronicle.

Experts attribute the rise to keen competition for a limited supply of external candidates to fulfill the increasingly complex post of president. The retirement of baby-boomer administrators is constraining the candidate pool for top university posts.

Schools once tapped beloved deans for presidential posts, but many senior administrators at top colleges are balking at taking stressful, time-consuming presidential posts.

“These are the jobs that burn people out,” said Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington attorney who specializes in university presidents’ contracts.

“Boards expect their presidents not only to be recognized scholars, but they want them to be extraordinary financial managers and consummate fundraisers,” said R. William Funk, who has conducted several high-profile university presidential searches.

Johns Hopkins University’s president, William R. Brody, raked in more than any other private college leader—with a total compensation package just under $900,000. Penn’s Judith Rodin, who left her post last year, was the highest-paid Ivy chief—earning over $893,000, according to the Chronicle.

But Summers also earned substantially less than leaders of several lesser-known institutions, including presidents of Drexel University in Philadelphia and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

Less prestigious schools may have to compensate for their lack of cachet by paying heftier salaries, Cotton said. And private donors are pitching in to help large public universities foot the bill for top-notch presidents. For example, Mark G. Yudof, the University of Texas chief, receives nearly 90 percent of his $651,000 compensation package from private sources.

But the highest-paid public school president, Mark A. Emmert of the University of Washington, receives every dollar of his $762,000 from the state.

A spokesman for the University of Washington said the school had not been hit with a taxpayer backlash after luring Emmert away from his previous post as chancellor of Louisiana State University this spring.

“Given his credentials and his previous salary at Louisiana State, people recognized that this was a good value for the money—even though the money was large,” said Bob Roseth, director of the school’s news office.

At several schools nationwide, presidents continue not to be the highest-paid employee. Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski earned $853,099 in fiscal year 2003—compared to then-Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane’s take-home pay of $528,622.

And Summers’ salary was just a fraction of the $35.1 million reeled in by Maurice Samuels, one of Harvard’s hugely successful endowment managers.

Even as presidents’ salaries rise, experts said they see a widening salary gap between academic administrators and their corporate counterparts.

“Someone like [Summers] could command at least 10 times what he’s making at Harvard if he were head of a similar-sized for-profit organization,” Cotton said.

—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at hemel@fas.harvard.edu.

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