Service of What Am I Worth To You?

December 23rd, 2014

Categories: Education, Salaries, Uncategorized

It’s hard to place values on earnings these days: Writers are paid a pittance, far less than garbage collectors or sports figures, and college presidents’ compensation averages in the six figures—up to $6 or $7 million in public and private colleges respectively—while students fall into deep-dish debt to pay the freight.

Valerie Strauss shared the list of college presidents’ compensation in her Washington Post article, “The surprising top 10 highest paid private college presidents.” She read the information in The Chronicle of Higher Education which, she noted, just reported on the latest data. It’s from 2012.

The amounts surprise me, not the people—about whom I know nothing, with one exception: The man whom she listed at the $6 million level, according to a May 2014 report by the Chronicle. He was E. Gordon Gee. But she didn’t identify where he earned it so I turned to Google to find out.

That’s where I discovered Jordan Weissman’s article in “This State College President Earned $6 Million Last Year. Should You Be Mad?” He confirmed the amount Ohio State University paid Gee, $6,057,615, much of which “came from built-up deferred compensation and severance,” wrote Weissman. He continued: “Gee retired from his post last summer after he was caught on tape disparaging Notre Dame and Catholics. (He’s now running West Virginia University). But his $851,000 base salary was also the highest among state school leaders.” Some model for students and a real fundraising magnet, right?

So whose compensation–$7,143,312–was the top among private college presidents? Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.

According to the Chronicle, “on average, a private-college president’s salary accounted for about 0.5 percent of his or her institution’s overall budget in 2012,” wrote Strauss. I have no way to determine the impact of the $6 and $7 million on Ohio State’s and Rensselaer’s budgets.

How do boards of trustees justify such figures? What makes one president worth so much more money than anyone else—their fundraising track record? Do you find that the range of compensation these days is unrelated to what a talented person in certain industries made 10 years ago?


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5 Responses to “Service of What Am I Worth To You?”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Part of a college president’s job IS to raise money for the institution, so if this person is a walking talking gold mine, able to squeeze important gifts out of known tightwads, he/she is well worth the compensation.

    Despite the grumbling that sports figures collect huge percentages over academics, they too bring millions to their organizations, and in that sense are worth millions (and they get it too!) over learned professors.

    Like it or not, this society worships the dollar, and the disproportionate pay awarded to certain groups are merely manifestations of cultural leanings.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I wish I could disagree with you and I also wish I could think of a way to change the course of our priorities. There are so many issues that we need to address and we need thinkers, not just money makers and athletic types, to help us reach solutions.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    You are right, but there’s no sign of enlightenment today, and probably not in our lifetime, so let’s sit back and enjoy the games……GO SEAHAWKS!!

  4. JPM Said:

    Inflation in college president compensation is part and parcel of the general policy which started in the Reagan years of expanding the wealth of the rich at the expense primarily of the middle class.

    The mostly men who decide what college presidents should be paid are, for the most part, wealthy businessmen who have become used to receiving huge pay packages. It never would occur to them that they are paying far too large a multiple of what teachers are paid to their boss.

    I was once a trustee of a college, I know.

    Things will not change until we adopt a fairer, more balanced and progressive tax code.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What you write makes perfect sense. It would be interesting to see how much money a college president paid $6 or $7 million brings in from alums. I’ve heard of fundraisers paid a tremendous amount of money by a school and they raise precisely what they are paid–so what’s the point except to give employment to them and the suppliers they use to knock on doors.

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