70 College Presidents Make Over $1 Million In Total Compensation

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Zachery Schmidt Contributor
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As college tuition continues to increase, so does the total compensation for college presidents.

College presidents make an astronomical amount of money. There are 70 college presidents — 12 at public schools and 58 at private — who make over $1 million, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Public college statistics originate from the 2016–2017 school year, and the private college statistics come from 2015 numbers.

“It is one of the great questions. When universities and colleges are complaining how hard it is to control costs, you have to wonder why their high-ranking executives are being paid like captains of industry,” Frederick Hess, American Enterprise Institute’s director of education policy, told the Daily Caller.

The top public college president’s total compensation belonged to James Ramsey, the former president at the University of Louisville. He made more than $4 million in the 2016–2017 year and had the highest total compensation by over $2 million; the next closest one belonged to former Auburn University President Jay Gogue who made $1.8 million.

The top private college president’s total compensation award went to University of Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch who made $4 million in 2015. James Wagner, the former president at Emory University, had the second-highest total compensation at $3.5 million.

The top 10 presidents at private colleges had individual compensations of over $2 million.

Public university presidents’ total compensation has skyrocketed since the 2009–2010 school year. At this point, Gordon Gee, the former president at Ohio State, collected more than $1 million. The former president of Louisville only made $314,037 in total compensation during this school year.

Private schools had only nine presidents who made over $1 million in 2008. Wake Forest’s president at this time made $646,413.

“The problem is that they are not paid so much, but a lot of these guys are paid at publically supported institutions. They are so flagrantly hypocritical,” Hess said. “The fact that they become extraordinarily wealthy while haranguing taxpayers and legislators.”

Base pay for college presidents has increased, but it has been what the Chronicle describes as “other pay” that makes up a substantial amount of president’s total compensation. The data describes this category as miscellaneous pay and benefits which includes severance payments, debt forgiveness and tax-gross-ups.

The average “other pay” for the top 10 public college presidents came to $791,895. For the top 10 private school presidents, the average was $1.2 million.

Hess said he couldn’t say if a president makes too much or too little. However, Hess called these people hypocrites in the generous compensation they take, while they lecture taxpayers and legislators about higher education investment.

Rising president’s total compensation corresponds with high tuition costs. In 2017, a degree at 38 colleges cost more than $250,000, which exceeds $65,000 a year, according to Business Insider.

Average costs of private and public colleges have increased since the 2008 recession. During the 2007-2008 school year, a private school’s average tuition cost $27,948 while a public school’s was $16,710 for out-of-state students and $6,468 for in-state students, according to US News.

US News calculated private tuition jumped 157 percent, out-of-state tuition increased 194 percent and in-state tuition elevated 237 percent in just 10 years.

Students spent anywhere from $80,000 to $130,000 to get a degree from a public or private school in 2017-2018.

Currently, America has $1.48 trillion student loan bubble, according to