Public University Presidents Make Efforts to Sacrifice

April 12, 2011 ( – With compensation packages in the six figures and more, some public-college presidents have offered sacrifices in a year in which layoffs, program closures, and pay reductions were common.

The Chronicle for Higher Education‘s compensation survey this year found the median total compensation for college presidents in 2009-10 was $375,442, and the median total cost of employment was $440,487.  

The Chronicle explained that “total compensation” figure shows the amount of base pay, bonuses, and deferred compensation a president actually collected in the 2009-10 fiscal year. The “total cost of employment” number includes base pay, bonuses, and all of the money the university and the state set aside for the president during the fiscal year. This figure includes deferred compensation that may or may not be paid out in future years, depending on whether the president remains in the position to reap the full rewards of a contract. 

Though they say pay levels are fair, necessary, and performance-driven, as more college employees are forced to take pay cuts, some presidents have taken steps to demonstrate that they’re sharing in the sacrifice, The Chronicle found.  

When University of California System president Mark G. Yudof, who makes $600,000 a year, introduced furloughs in 2009, he used a tiered system that forced the system’s highest earners, including himself, to take the most furlough days, equivalent to 10% salary reductions.  

Other presidents voluntarily gave up or donated some of their pay in the 2009-10 fiscal year. E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, who topped the list, earning more than $1.3-million in total compensation, used his bonus to finance scholarships and other university efforts. Gary D. Forsee, president of the University of Missouri, declined to take $100,000 in performance-based incentive pay for which he was eligible under his contract. And Elson S. Floyd, president of Washington State University, volunteered to take a $100,000 reduction in his salary in light of budget difficulties facing his university.  

More information, including a list of the highest-paid chief executives at public colleges is at