Pay for private university chiefs grows by 4 percent

December 9, 2018 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Presidents of America’s private colleges and universities saw their pay increase by nearly 4 percent in 2016, with dozens receiving more than $1 million, according to a new report .

The average chief made about $560,000 in total compensation, including salary, bonuses and benefits, according to an annual survey of 500 schools released Sunday by The Chronicle of Higher Education. It continues years of growth, including average increases of about 9 percent in each of the two previous years.


Topping the list was Ken Starr, the former president of Baylor University, who left in 2016 amid a scandal over the school’s handling of sexual assault accusations against football players. That year Starr received nearly $5 million, most of which came from a severance agreement he negotiated with the school, according to The Chronicle. The year before, he made $1.4 million.

Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said the terms of Starr’s agreement are confidential, but she noted that “a portion” of his compensation was to buy out his tenured faculty position at Baylor’s law school.

Following Starr were Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, who received nearly $4 million, and Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, with $3.2 million. Both have been among the 10 highest paid presidents of private universities since 2012.

Newcomers to the top 10 include Victor Boschini of Texas Christian University, who was paid $2.8 million, and Edward Guiliano of the New York Institute of Technology at Old Westbury, with $2.7 million.

The number of chiefs making more than $1 million ticked up to 61 in 2016, compared to 58 the year before, while the number topping $2 million dipped slightly, to eight.

Along with Starr, several other leaders who left amid turmoil saw their pay balloon in 2016 through negotiated settlements, including at Suffolk University in Massachusetts, Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland and Wittenberg University in Ohio.

At Suffolk University, for example, former President Margaret McKenna was paid about $300,000 for the half-year she worked in 2015 after being hired in July. She also worked just a half-year in 2016 before she was fired following clashes with the school’s governing board, but she received $658,000 that year through a deal tied to her departure.

Officials at Suffolk declined to comment on the agreement.


The Chronicle’s study is based on university tax filings for 2016, the latest year available. It includes yearly salaries, along with a variety of other forms of compensation including bonuses, health insurance, housing and retirement benefits.

For most of the highest paid presidents, base salary accounted for less than half of their overall pay, while the rest came from bonuses and other perks. Looking at salary alone, the top earners were Bollinger at Columbia, Andrew Hamilton at New York University and C.L. Max Nikias of the University of Southern California, who each made roughly $1.3 million in base pay.

In a separate study in July, The Chronicle found that public university chiefs who served full years in 2016 and 2017 were paid an average of about $560,000, a 5 percent increase over the year before. Among public university presidents in 2017, a dozen made $1 million or more.


Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at