College Presidents’ Pay Climbs as State Funding Shrinks

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Jason Minick / AP

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier enters Harrisburg District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., on Nov. 7, 2012

State and local funding for public universities fell by 7% last year, but that didn’t prevent some college presidents from getting raises. In 2011–12, the median total compensation for chief executives at public colleges was $441,392 — a 4.7% increase from the 2010–11 school year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual report on executive pay.

(MORE: Former Penn State President Says He Was Abuse Victim in Letter)

At the top of the list is Graham Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University, who was forced to resign in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. In 2011–12, Spanier brought in a total of $2.9 million, which included $1.2 million in severance pay. He was followed by Jay Gogue of Auburn University, who received $2,542,865, and Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, whose $1,899,420 compensation included a base salary of $830,439 — the most of any president. In 2007–08, Gee famously became the first college president who earned more than $1 million per year. Nothing to scoff at, though many of the presidents on the list don’t make as much as the football and men’s basketball coaches at their schools.

The full report, available here, includes salary information on 212 presidents. Here are the top 10 earners, in terms of total compensation:

1. Graham B. Spanier*, Pennsylvania State University (Pennsylvania), $2,906,271

2. Jay Gogue, Auburn University (Alabama), $2,542,865

3. E. Gordon Gee, Ohio State University main campus (Ohio), $1,899,420

4. Alan G. Merten*, George Mason University (Virginia), $1,869,369

5. Jo Ann M. Gora, Ball State University (Indiana), $984,647

6. Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan system (Michigan), $918,783

7. Charles W. Steger, Virginia Tech (Virginia), $857,749

8. Mark G. Yudof, University of California system (California), $847,149

9. Bernard J. Machen, University of Florida (Florida), $834,562

10. Francisco G. Cigarroa, University of Texas system (Texas), $815,833

*No longer president

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to me this is within the acceptable parameters for leadership roles.   However, there has been a recent trend to get rid of experienced and tenured professors and replace them with part time faculty.  This contamination of the education system with contemporary business practices is harmful to academic performance of the schools, their primary revenue generator.


Come the revolution (which I say lightly but truly feel will happen some day) the top earners won't get more than 20 times what the lowest paid person gets.  So if the first year full time teacher gets 50k the President won't get more than $1 million.  Same with the football coach!  If the high earners were smart they'd start working this sort of thing now, because 20x might be more than some would say they are worth. 

Is Penn State worth 4 times the pay of the guy at Texas? 


If we truly valued education we would cap the adminstration's wages to that of the educators.  Too many fine educators go into admin because that's were the money is.  Doesn't that seem upside down?   


Raise tuition and give themselves a pay raise. Isn't that enough to make you want to puke?

Well, the day of reckoning is coming because college degrees are not worth what they used to be. Those jobs are in China now. So people are graduating into unemployment with $50K or more in debt. It's a TRILLION dollar bubble about to burst.


A college president's pay should be no more than the pay of the college's head football coach.

Oh, wait a minute....