In the face of the student-loan crisis and the rising cost of college tuition, a recent report on the compensation of 550 private college presidents in 2011 can be hard to swallow. Some of the numbers are pretty big: The top five earners made more than two million dollars each. Forty two presidents made one million dollars or more. The typical private university president made $410,000, up 3.2 percent from the 2010 median.
But this money makes up a small fraction of university expenditures. The report, from The Chronicle of Higher Education, helpfully lists the president’s compensation as a fraction of his or her institution's total spending. For example, University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann’s salary ranks sixth in the country, but her salary only accounts for $376 out of every million dollars UPenn spends. Harvard’s President, Drew Gilpin Faust, received $899,734 in compensation and ranks among the least-well-compensated presidents relative to budget. She earns $230 for every one million dollars of Harvard’s expenditure.
Another thing to keep in mind here: The Chronicle includes delayed compensation in these calculations. Some of these numbers are inflated by bonuses presidents receive after a certain number of years in the position. The highest earner this year, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, earned $917,993 in base pay but more than $3.3 million in total compensation.