More public college presidents paid in excess of $1 million

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The number of presidents at public universities making more than $1 million a year more than doubled to nine in the 2012-2013 school year as performance bonuses drove pay higher, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Public college presidents made on average $478,896 last year, up 5 percent from the year before, the publication found in a survey released on Sunday. Base salaries rose 1 percent to $403,496. The gain in compensation comes as states have repeatedly cut aid, forcing universities to raise tuition and count more on fundraising, while requiring increased performance standards such as graduation rates to get funding.

“The job is a lot more complicated and the expectations are higher,” said Lyn Harper, a senior consultant at Yaffe & Co., a nonprofit health-care and higher education compensation adviser in Towson, Md. “People are expecting more than they did 10 years ago, and these campuses are very complicated.”

Gordon Gee, who retired last year after serving two terms as president of Ohio State University, topped the list with total compensation of $6.1 million. Gee, who courted controversy using school funds to pay for flights on private jets, left after making a derogatory remark about Catholics at Notre Dame University, for which he later apologized. He has since become head of West Virginia University.

Gee’s base salary was $850,000 and almost 40 percent of his earnings came from deferred compensation, according to the report.

Gee’s appointment to West Virginia will save Ohio $4 million through June 2018, including a $410,000 a year base salary granted to Gee on his retirement, spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email.

R. Bowen Loftin, the former president of Texas A&M University, was the second-highest paid at $1.6 million last year followed by Hamid Shirvani at the North Dakota University System, who was paid $1.3 million. Shirvani has also departed.

Shirvani’s annual salary was $349,000 plus benefits, Linda Donlin, a university spokeswoman, said in an email. His compensation was higher because of the buyout of his three-year contract after less than a year. Nobody at Texas A&M returned phone calls for comment.

At least five of the highest-paid presidents have since resigned from their institutions, according to the survey, which may have resulted in higher pay packages because top administrators often get deferred compensation on their departure.