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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