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Monday, November 10, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

College presidents' salaries at record high

By Tan Vinh
Seattle Times staff reporter

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While colleges nationwide are facing budget cuts and raising tuition, compensation packages for university presidents have pushed to record highs, according to a study to be released this morning by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In its list of the highest-paid public-university presidents, the Chronicle ranked former University of Washington President Richard McCormick third with a salary and benefits package of $625,000 as president of Rutgers University in New Jersey. His pay trails that of University of Delaware President David Roselle ($630,654) and University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman ($677,500).

The survey confirmed what UW administrators have feared — that in order to land a superstar candidate to replace McCormick, officials may have to double what they have paid in recent years. McCormick made $295,000 in 2002, his last year at the UW, and interim UW President Lee Huntsman makes $296,400.

Many education experts say the sum of those two salaries may be what it takes to land a big name to lead the state's flagship university.

UW regent Ark Chin said he is reluctant to offer that much money but added, "There is a market-pricing structure. And we will have to pretty much go along with it."

The Chronicle's survey broke out its salary scales into two categories: what public-college presidents will make in 2003-2004 and what private-college presidents made in the 2002 fiscal year. Compensation includes salaries, bonuses and expense accounts.

The study lists Washington State University's V. Lane Rawlins as the highest-paid public-university president in this state, at $345,502.

The highest-paid private-college president in Washington is University of Puget Sound President Susan Resneck Pierce at $314,160, the Chronicle said.

The lowest-paid was the Rev. Stephen Sundborg, Seattle University's president, who doesn't draw a salary because, as a Jesuit priest, he takes a vow of poverty, a campus spokeswoman said.

Nationwide, the three highest-paid presidents are Shirley Ann Jackson, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. ($891,400); Gordon Gee of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. ($852,023); and Judith Rodin of the University of Pennsylvania ($845,474) — all private schools. If their pay for serving on corporate boards were included, each would earn more than $1 million annually, the Chronicle estimated.

The report said 27 private-university presidents made at least $500,000 in the 2002 fiscal year, the latest figures available. Until 2000, no more than a dozen private-college presidents made that much money in any year, the Chronicle found.

"This is a new route to becoming millionaires," said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in San Jose, Calif.

Callan said the salary scales are especially disturbing for public universities because campuses nationwide are facing budget crises, raising tuition and freezing staff positions. The high salaries "will not help public confidence at a time like this," Callan said.

While a president's salary makes up only a portion of a university budget, it's still one of the most controversial topics in higher education, as was evident in recent weeks at Boston University.

The university recently signed Daniel Goldin, a former NASA administrator, to run the university but then gave him a $1.8 million buyout after some disagreements. The campus has been in an uproar because that buyout came at a time when faculty have not received a raise in two years, many departments are understaffed and many facilities need upgrading.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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