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Study: 30 private college presidents made more than $1 million

A study shows that high-end compensation for private college presidents is increasing. In 2004, no presidents made $1 million or more. In 2008, 30 did.

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“Presidential salaries make up a very small percentage of overall campus budgets, and have virtually no impact on tuition increases,” said David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, in a statement.

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Among sitting college presidents, Gerald Turner at Southern Methodist University topped the list with compensation of $2.8 million. (He’s the president who cashed out a life insurance policy, which accounted for $1.5 million of that.) Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, was the highest-paid Ivy League president, with compensation of $1.8 million. And New York University president John Sexton had the highest base pay: $1.2 million.

Many of those in the over-$1 million camp lead large, well-known universities, but they also include presidents of lesser-known schools like the University of Tulsa, Drexel University, and Clark Atlanta University.

Still, if their salary seems high, compare what presidents at these nonprofit institutions are earning compared with their for-profit counterparts. According to a study earlier this year by the Chronicle, CEOs of publicly traded higher-education companies include Andrew Clark of Bridgepoint Education, who received total compensation (most of it in stock options and other compensation) of $20.5 million and Charles Edelstein of Apollo Group, whose compensation was $11.3 million. Or there’s Robert Silberman, the CEO Strayer Education Inc. who – Bloomberg reported last week – last year made $41.9 million.

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