National News

Big Jump in Million-Dollar Pay Packages for Private College Leaders

Posted December 10, 2017 6:55 p.m. EST

Amid pressure on academia to control costs, the pay packages for private college presidents have continued to rise, as the number earning more than $1 million spiked in 2015 and average compensation rose 9 percent, according to an annual survey.

In 2015, the year with the most recent data available, 58 presidents earned a compensation package worth more than $1 million, up from 39 presidents in 2014, according to the annual ranking of pay at 500 private colleges compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In many cases the compensation packages were bolstered by deferred compensation plans and large retirement payouts.

“The number of presidents earning over $1 million is unusually high in 2015,” said Dan Bauman, a reporter for The Chronicle who worked on compiling the data. “We attribute that, in part, to a market where presidents are negotiating more deferred compensation and bonus packages before they take the job.”

At the head of the list was Nathan O. Hatch, the president of Wake Forest University, whose earnings of $4 million included a lump sum of nearly $3 million that he earned upon completing 10 years in the office.

In a statement, Wake Forest said Hatch’s compensation without those earnings — a base salary of $839,944 — was in line with similar institutions. Donna Boswell, the chair of the board of trustees, said Hatch’s leadership was “exceptional.”

The top 10 included some expected names, including the leaders of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California, Columbia University, the University of Chicago and Boston University.

No. 2 was James W. Wagner, who stepped down as Emory University’s president last year. In 2015 he earned $3.5 million, which included a payout of 10 years of deferred compensation, according to the university. He was No. 33 on the previous year’s list. Jonathan K. Layne, a member of Emory’s board, credited the deferred compensation plan with providing “a stable, successful leadership” for Emory.