The Phoenix Flyer

College and university presidents are taking in big bucks, from base pay to bonuses and perks

By: - July 15, 2019 12:33 pm

Florida State University. Source: Wikimedia Commons

From base pay and hefty bonuses to lucrative perks such as retirement plans and housing and auto benefits, chief executives at public and private colleges are enjoying pay packages worth millions — or at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The executive compensation comes from a wide-ranging analysis by The Chronicle of Higher Education, which makes comparisons with similar institutions and puts earnings into context based on a school’s expenses, tuition, faculty salaries and other staff, such as head football coaches who get multi-million dollar pay packages.

For students scraping by with college loans and foreseeing a pile of debt down the road, the executive pay packages will seem astronomical.

For public college leaders, Michael K. Young, president at Texas A & M University at College Station, was at the top of list, with a pay package of about $1.9 million for 2018. That’s based on a full year of compensation and total pay, not just base salary. In Young’s case, the base pay was $1 million, followed by other benefits.

In Florida, the Chronicle posted executive compensation figures for seven chief executives at public universities as well as the chancellor of the State University System of Florida Board of Governors.

The highest pay package – $1.13 million — went to W. Kent Fuchs, president of the University of Florida in Gainesville. His base pay for 2018 was $892,539, and other earnings included a retirement plan and a housing benefit.

Fuchs was followed by Florida State University president John Thrasher, in Tallahassee, whose total compensation of $1.03 million included a base salary of $573,458, a bonus of $300,000 and a house and car benefit, among other perks.

At the University of South Florida in Tampa, then-president Judy L. Genshaft’s pay package was about $902,000 in 2018, which included base pay of about $504,000, a bonus of about $263,000 and a car and “social club” benefit, among other perks. (Genshaft just recently stepped down after nearly 20 years at the helm of USF.)

Pay packages for other public university presidents ranged from about $475,000 to $735,000.

The Chronicle’s private college data was for 2016. The highest pay package in that category – abut $3.9-million — was for Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, an Ivy League school in New York City. Bollinger’s base pay was about $1.4-million and he got a bonus of $700,000, plus other pay and benefits.

For private colleges and universities in Florida, the top pay package was for Julio Frenk, president of the University of Miami. His compensation for 2016 was about $1.9-million, including base pay of $1.12 million and a bonus of $150,000.

You can go the Chronicle’s website to look at other executive compensation for university and college leaders.

An earlier version of the story did not correctly portray FSU president John Thrasher’s compensation package. The Phoenix regrets the error and has corrected the figures.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.