More College Presidents Join the Millionaire’s Club

by Nathan Harden

These days, it really pays to lead a “nonprofit” university:

An unprecedented 42 private-university presidents made more than $1 million in 2011.

Topping the list is Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, who raked in a whopping $3.36 million that year.

Even in the middle of a recession, with colleges slashing workers and cutting budgets all over the country, pay for college presidents continues to rise. For instance, in 2009 and 2010, former Yale president Richard Levin laid off hundreds of low-paid workers, including dining-hall and maintenance staff, while pulling in annual compensation of $1.6 million.

These seven-figure salaries look obscene — approved, as they very often are, by people the president himself has appointed to the university’s board of trustees.

Because nonprofit universities receive enormous financial benefits as tax-free, “nonprofit” institutions, not to mention untold federal grants and loan subsidies, the sound of jingling gold in a college president’s pocket hurts my ears.

Here’s my advice to university trustees out there: You want to pay your president like a corporate CEO? Then play by the rules of the corporate world — pay your taxes.

Otherwise, pay your leader a more moderate sum.

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