Harvard has been searching for its 29th president since University President Drew G. Faust announced over the summer she plans to step down in June 2018. The Crimson reported in Dec. 2017 that the search committee—comprising all 12 members of the Harvard Corporation and three members of the Board of Overseers—had narrowed its candidate pool to under 20 names.
Faust’s successor could expect to make over $1.4 million annually. According to the most recent public tax filings, Faust earned $852,920 in base salary, $333,825 in deferred compensation—money the Harvard Corporation sets aside for her to access at a later date—and $160,403 in non-taxable benefits in fiscal year 2016. She also made $551,928 in "other reportable compensation," the filings indicate.
In total, her salary and benefits rank third among presidential compensations at other Ivy League institutions and Stanford, according to a Chronicle of Higher Ed analysis.
The search committee has repeatedly declined to comment on the progress of the search or to reveal the names of candidates under consideration. Nonetheless, prominent alumni, donors, professors, and administrators have pointed to several individuals—both internal and external to the University—that are likely on the committee’s under-20 list.
Internal candidates named by prominent donors and professors include Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’77, and Government professor Danielle S. Allen.
All of these individuals would receive pay bumps if they were named the 29th President of Harvard. In fiscal year 2016, Nohria earned $724,907 and Garber earned $833,255 in total compensation, according to 990 tax filings, which list the highest-compensated individuals employed by the University. Were he to become president, Smith’s salary would almost double—the filings show Smith earned $677,350 in the same year. Allen's salary was not large enough to merit a mention in the tax filings.
Possible external candidates would also see a spike in salary if they got the nod for Harvard’s top job. In a Dec. 2017 interview, Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley ’82 named several candidates from outside the University he expects to see on the search committee’s shortlist, including Broad Institute President Eric S. Lander, World Bank President and former Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, and University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel.
Lander—who Daley said was “almost certainly on the shortlist”—would earn the smallest pay bump; he earned $1,084,862 in fiscal year 2016, according to the most recent tax filings. Kim, like Smith, would see his annual income nearly double. He earned $492,690 in base salary and $208,407 in additional benefits as World Bank president. Schlissel earned $782,481 in the same timespan.
Judith A. Wilde, a professor at George Mason University who researches university presidents’ salaries, said she thinks candidates under consideration for the presidency will have little trouble negotiating a high income with Harvard’s top brass.
“More often than in the past, many trustees and board members of universities are CEOs or other high level figures at major corporations,” Wilde said. “So when a president is negotiating a contract and wants a bigger salary with lots of perks, these board members don’t necessarily see a problem with that.”
Wilde said that, today, many of the contracts for university and college presidents resemble the contracts for CEOs of top business firms in price range. She noted there are even attorneys who specialize in negotiating contracts for top education administrators.
Though the Harvard presidency represents a pay raise for many of the candidates likely on the committee’s shortlist, the University’s levels of executive compensation resemble or fall below those at peer schools. When compared to the heads of other Ivy League schools especially, Faust is sometimes out-earned.
In fiscal year 2016, Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger earned $2.5 million, while University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann earned $3 million—roughly twice Faust’s annual income.
Other presidents at Harvard’s peer institutions earned a salary similar to Faust’s in fiscal year 2016. The presidents of Brown, Princeton, and Dartmouth all earned around $1 million that year. Yale President Peter Salovey and Stanford President John L. Hennessy both earned slightly less than Faust: Salovey made $1,157,488 while Hennessy took in $1,202,934.
Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington attorney specializing in higher education leadership, said the pay discrepancy with some schools is likely intentional. He said Harvard's governing boards may want to convey that Harvard is “not the place to come to make money.”
“That’s not what we’re about. We are about educating people, conducting valuable research that is valuable to humanity,” Cotton said. “We are about providing service to the world community at large.”
Editor's Note: For ease of comparison, the chart on presidential salaries accompanying this article follows the Chronicle of Higher Education methodology for calculating total compensation, which sums base salary, benefits, and other compensation. This method puts Faust's income at $1.5 million. Typically, The Crimson excludes other compensation and includes deferred compensation, which places Faust's income at closer to $1.4 million.
—Staff writer Dianne Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @diannelee_.
—Staff writer William L. Wang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @wlwang20