Home / General / Room for debate: Are gargantuan salaries for university presidents A Good Thing?

Room for debate: Are gargantuan salaries for university presidents A Good Thing?


In the course of carrying out its secret mission as an engine of left-wing insurrection, the New York Times has put together a debate on whether its desirable for university presidents to have increasingly enormous sums of cash shoveled into their bank accounts, at a time when the people who do most of the actual teaching in the contemporary university — adjuncts and graduate students — are being paid in scrip for beef jerky and discounted parking passes.

The Times’ crypto-revolutionary agenda is evident to anyone who considers the arguments put forth by the people (a lawyer and a law professor) the paper chose to defend the status quo.

Shorter Raymond D. Cotton: University presidents are paid so much these days for the same reasons corporate CEOS are paid so much these days. QED,or something.

Shorter Dorothy A. Brown: The real issue here is that the stupendous compensation packages of white male university presidents are on average slightly larger than the stupendous compensation packages of women and minority university presidents.

The only reasonable explanation for this kind of thing is that it’s actually intended to put pitchforks and torches in the hands of the academic proletariat.

Speaking of which, here are some comparative figures I’ve put together on changes in compensation at one major research university over the past 35 years. (All figures are in constant 2013 dollars).

. . . Note that Michigan is a top school, so its faculty salaries are quite a bit higher than average. Two years ago the AAUP found the average salaries for full, associate, and assistant professors at all American colleges and universities to be $113K, $77.5K, and $67.5K respectively. In other words it appears average tenure track faculty salaries in the US are about what they were at an elite public school 35 years ago.

Average salary for different categories of employees at the University of Michigan in 1979 and 2013:


1979: $34,017

2013: $32,214

Director of Athletics

1979: $173,274

2013: $850,000 base salary (Does not include $100,000 in deferred compensation, and a possible $200,000 bonus).

Full Professor

1979: $107,493

2013: $167,260

Associate Professor

1979: $77,153

2013: $114,071

Assistant Professor

1979: $61,119

2013: $100,048

Dean of the Law School:

1979: $169,075

2013: $420,000

Administrative Assistant/Secretary

1979: $45,985

2013: $43,078


1979: $216,000 salary (other compensation, if any, unknown, although it’s safe to assume use of the president’s house was included.)

2013: $603,357 base salary; $100,000 bonus in lieu of a raise; $100,000 additional annual retention bonus; $175,000 annual deferred compensation, $50,000 annual retirement pay, free use of residence and car.

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  • Ethan Gach

    What about adjuncts and graduate students?

    It might help to break the rates up for each category into hourly to compare with part time adjunct profs.

    • Orpho

      And don’t forget that, at many universities, the custodians are now “independent contractors” who don’t receive health insurance or benefits. Ah, the growth of the 1099 economy.

      Of course, neither do the adjuncts, most of the time, and so many universities are cutting adjuncts down so that they don’t qualify for health benefits under Obamacare, either.

    • Manny Kant

      It’s hard to compare, because the number of hours worked for an adjuncted class would be hard to calculate (and would also differ depending on the class being taught – I spend a whole lot more time on a class I’ve never taught before than I do when I’m teaching “World History since 1500” for the umpteenth time, even though I’d be paid the same amount for both). I’d imagine adjunct pay rates have gone up considerably, though. The real difference is that a much higher percentage of classes overall is being taught by non-full-time faculty.

      I’d also be interested to see how the average assistant professor and associate professor salaries have changed. It seems distinctly likely to me that we’re ending up with fewer and fewer full professors as time goes on, so the fact that this small, rapidly aging, elite is getting paid 55% more than they were 35 years ago doesn’t necessarily seem that relevant.

      • Murc

        It seems distinctly likely to me that we’re ending up with fewer and fewer full professors

        I keep wondering how sustainable that is. People really like to feel they’re getting value for money. In fact, among the middle and upper-middle-class types who are the target market (I feel dirty just typing that) for colleges, getting a “great deal” is something of a cultural marker; these are guys who brag about how they managed to re-do their entire kitchen in granite and stainless steel for 30k instead of 50k like everyone thought it would cost them, or how they found a used S-Series Benz with only five thousand miles on it that cost them less than half what a new one does, etc.

        And among those guys… if they start asking questions like “How many full-time professors do you have in this department” when taking their precious younglings to campuses and getting blank stares in response, they’re gonna really consider going elsewhere. Especially if they’re comparing the asking price to what they paid for college, or looking around for guys who resemble the professors they remember and seeing harried, clearly not-entirely-there drones instead.

        • Manny Kant

          All true, but note that “Full professors” are not the same thing as “full-time professors.” The only difference between full professors and associate professors is that the former are paid more.

          • Manny Kant

            Basically, the issue is that full professors are by far the most privileged members of the faculty, so I’m not sure they’re the best test case for how faculty is doing at elite universities.

            • Paul Campos

              I’ve added numbers for assistant and associate professors.

              Tenure track faculty have done well relative to staff, (not to mention contingent faculty) although their salaries have barely gone up relative to those of top administrators.

              • Manny Kant

                Are these medians or means? One other thing about professors is that there’s a much wider variation based on “type of professor” than I think there’d be for custodial staff or administrative assistants. Professors in the elite professional schools tend to get paid way more than your typical humanities or social sciences professor, with the pure sciences somewhere in the middle. I wonder how much of the gain has been concentrated among law/medical/business professors.

                • Paul Campos

                  These numbers are means; medians appear to be about 10% lower for assistant and associate professors, and 5% lower for fulls.

                  You’re right of course that pay varies a lot between fields, with medical, law, and business schools pulling up averages, but in looking at UM’s current salaries I was surprised by how high the pay is for some people in some LS&A departments. For example nearly a third of the fulls in the poli sci department make $200K+ and the median among the 30 full professors in the department is $175,000.

        • ericblair

          I think this is general management strategy for any existing institution these days, though. Take a quality company/university/what-have-you with an excellent reputation, then hollow the thing out while stuffing your own pockets. Keep doing this and coasting on its reputation and remaining assets for as long as possible, then bail when Joe Schmoe finally clues in. See also “Mafia bustout” and “locust swarm” for related activities.

      • Orpho

        I’d imagine adjunct pay rates have gone up considerably, though

        I see universities offering a single adjuncted class for $2,000. In Boston. In 2014 dollars. Looks like Brandeis offers $3-$5k, depending on the class. Curious about other universities? http://adjunct.chronicle.com/ , or any of the others.

        …what makes you say pay has gone up?

        • wjts

          At the University of Pittsburgh, they pay adjuncts $1,000/credit hour. So usually three or four thousand dollars per course, or $750/$1000 a month before taxes.

          • wjts

            And that job comes with no guarantee that you’ll still have it or something like it next semester, let alone next year.

          • Orpho

            Both rates being abysmally atrocious – but at least you can find an apartment in Wilkinsburg or Uptown for $300/month in Pittsburgh. The Boston rates…

            I look at both of those numbers and wonder how it all came to this.

        • In the Philly area, the lowest I’ve heard is $1800 or $1900/class at Cabrini College, although I’d not be at all surprised if there’s even lower paying ones in cheaper parts of the country. The most I’ve seen is around $5500 or $6000/class, I think, at Penn. Most places around here seem to pay between $3500 and $4000, which I know is well above the national average, which is, I think, $2900. Those rates are if you have a PhD; it’s a bit lower if you’re ABD.

          I don’t think it’s all that likely that adjuncting rates have gone up nationally since 1979, but Michigan isn’t going to be a typical school. It’s fairly wealthy, and it’s also unionized (I think both grad students and adjuncts are unionized there, along with tenured faculty). So I’d guess that Michigan adjuncts have seen their rates go up, even as the use of adjuncts has skyrocketed and their pay has probably stagnated nationally.

          • Fake Irishman

            You are correct that both adjuncts and GSIs at UM are unionized. The GSI rates have increased at a considerably higher rate than the adjunct rates (probably due to UM believing that it has to compete for grad students, but not for adjuncts.) Having said that, the adjunct union has made considerable gains on things like step increases and job stability, and has resisted university demands for givebacks on healthcare and retirement benefits reasonably well (though “Right-to-Work” has hurt both groups’ leverage.

  • LeeEsq

    One difference between the New Gilded Age and the Old Gilded Age is that the Tammany Hall style of corruption, where you treat the public treasury as a source of private wealth, is spread to many of more institutions now. Boss Tweed would either be disgusted or wondering why he never thought about this.

  • LeftWingFox

    There was a TED talk where the guy was defending massive CEO payments in charity positions, since they needed to compete with private sector compensation for top talent.

    More evidence that massive executive compensation warps the entire system.

    • Srsly Dad Y

      I’ll recycle my quip from another thread. “You can’t attract the best people unless you pay real money. After all, look at us, we’re the best people and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the money.”

    • N__B

      Shorter Raymond D. Cotton: University presidents are paid so much these days for the same reasons corporate CEOS are paid so much these days.

      True. And, just like it’s a horseshit excuse with CEOs, it’s a horseshit excuse with university presidents.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “University presidents are paid so much these days for the same reasons corporate CEOS are paid so much these days.”

        It’s a RISK premium, because there’s always the risk that the peons will rise up, haul the miscreant out of his paneled & gilded office, tie them to a stake and have themselves a nice little Auto-da-fé.

        Clearly the “risk” needs to increase to the level that justifies the “premium”.

    • That was Dan Pallotta. I watched that talk and I thought he actually had a germ of a point in his discussion of why nonprofit CEOs are paid so much less – he said that it was because early Americans treated wealth as a source of guilt, and spending that wealth on charity and other such things as a way to assuage their guilt over having it. I remember thinking that would go some way to explaining how many of the 1% have problems realizing that they’re not, actually, middle-class working people.

  • ploeg

    Obviously this merely demonstrates the value of a college education. If the custodians had any get-up-and-go, they too could be directors of athletics.

  • njorl

    True, real wages have been stagnant for the underlings, but you’re leaving out the compensatory value of being administered by sublime geniuses. It is a joy no amount of money can match.

    • Sheldon Cooper, PhD, STY, STE

      So how come I’m not emperor of CalTech yet? I’m the sublime-est genius of them all!

  • Pure evil, demonstrated in numerical data. For support staff’s salaries to DROP is inexcusable.

  • DrDick

    Yet another example of the improved efficiency and cost effectiveness of running universities like businesses.

  • Tiny Tim

    If CEO university presidents really did what they marketed themselves as being good at – raising shitloads of cash -maybe they’d be worth it. But they aren’t. They’re all shit at it, and they all just blame the Great Recession for the fact that they’re shit at it, but they’re shit at it because they aren’t actually the type of people who are good at gladhanding rich alums. They’re too entitled. Rich alums want their asses kissed. CEO presidents think it’s their asses who should be kissed.

    Yes I have experience in this realm.

    • Manny Kant

      What is that cash even ever used for? It certainly doesn’t seem to ever go into the academic side of the university.

      • DrDick

        Athletics, vanity buildings (named after the donors), endowed chairs, and “student services” (not generally including scholarships and grants) in my experience.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Well, my information comes from well outside the ranks of University Michigan (where it appears that assistant professors make much more than I ever got as a full professor, sigh—though I do wonder whether Paul’s figures are for “total compensation”, including health insurance and TIAA-CREF or equivalent pension contributions), but at least in some necks of certain woods, holding an “endowed chair” doesn’t necessarily mean much (if any) in the way of a raise for the holder, or even for the holder’s department: somehow (funny how that sort of thing works) most (if not all) of the endowed cash beyond what goes to fund the holder’s salary (and benefits, and maybe lab or library bennies) finds its way into the general budget.

          • rm

            Yes, me too — I’ve only ever worked at universities where the Full Professor salary looks like Michigan’s Assistant, and where Assistant looks like Michigan’s custodian (and yeah, how incredible is it that custodian salaries dropped). And I mean state university campuses, not community colleges, where the pay is lower.

            And of course most teaching is done by the new lower-than-Assistant non-TT ranks we’ve created or by adjuncts who are paid about enough to cover the gas they burn driving to work.

            • DrDick

              I would point out that at my little third tier state university (in the state system with the lowest paid faculty in the country), I am not sure that very many full professors outside of business, law, and biological sciences make as much as the Michigan Asst. Profs.

            • ajay

              how incredible is it that custodian salaries dropped

              I know you meant “incredible” as in “striking”, which it is, but it isn’t that incredible in the sense of unbelievable: remember that salaries for the bottom 80% of the US working population have pretty much stagnated since the 1970s. Universities aren’t an outlier here, they’re just following the trend…

          • DrDick

            My point about the endowed chair was really that it is another meaningless expense of little benefit to the university’s mission.

    • JustRuss

      Well, our president is good at raising shitloads of cash. So we have lots of shiny new buildings…and tuition is still climbing through the roof. So we can now graduate even more students with a crushing debt load. I can’t see how this is sustainable.

      • ChrisS

        The former President of the uni that my wife works at raised a shitload of cash, built a bunch of new buildings, built a new Presidential office had the university buy him a house, watched enrollment fall off a cliff, blamed it on the economy, and then jetted off to a bigger better job.

        I tell you, it’s a helluva racket to spend a bunch of money and take a better job based on how well you spent that money regardless of sustainability.

  • Universtity Presidents riding their polo ponies through pools of cash

    Of course it is a good thing. Now peel me a grape!

  • Kurzleg

    Paul’s numbers stated as percentages of gain/(loss):

    Custodian -5.3%
    Director of Athletics 390.6%
    Professor (full) 55.6%
    Dean of the Law School: 148.4%
    Admin Assistant/Secretary -6.3%
    President: 179.3%

    Not quite as high as the 937% increase of average CEO pay over a similar time frame, but the Athletic Director did the best. Dean and President increased at a rate 2.5 to 3+ times that of full professor.

  • Tiny Tim

    Then there’s the question of what the mythical shitloads of cash would be spent on…

  • low-tech cyclist

    I’d love to see a state create a college/university that was stripped down to its basic educational mission – no athletics, no extracurriculars, just classes and such research as could be done without major equipment – and little excuse for most of the typical university’s administration. Put it in a city on the decline so land costs would be low and students could find their own housing nearby.

    I bet it would be a hell of a lot cheaper to run than a regular university.

    • Pee Cee

      I’d love to see a state create a college/university that was stripped down to its basic educational mission – no athletics, no extracurriculars, just classes and such research as could be done without major equipment

      Isn’t that basically what we call a community college?

      • ChrisS

        The community college I took some summer classes at just built a new $12.4 million dollar sports arena.

      • UserGoogol

        Community colleges are pretty light in the “classes and some research” department. Most community colleges limit themselves to an Associates Degree. I don’t see why you can’t provide the more advanced material a research university provides at community college prices. Teaching a class on algebraic topology doesn’t seem much more resource intensive than teaching a class on pre-calculus. The teachers themselves need to know more, but I don’t know how much of a difference that would really make.

        • lnthga

          Fewer students will sign up for an algebraic topology class than a pre-calculus class. At many universities, you will have trouble getting enough students to sign up for algebraic topology so that the administration will run the class. Pre-calculus, on the other hand….

          • UserGoogol

            Ah yes, that is something I have had frustrating experiences with. Still, more advanced classes do get taught, even if things get rather sporadic as you advance into really high levels. Class sizes are a factor, but it doesn’t seem unsolvable.

    • I don’t get why athletics and extra-curricular activities wouldn’t be part of the educational mission? I can’t speak so much about athletics because my schools’ athletic departments were really sad affairs, but I can’t imagine school without extra-curricular activities.

      • MAJeff

        I think most schools and students would benefit far more from a strong intramural system as opposed to the ridiculous intercollegiate corruption we’ve got going on now

        • Bloix

          Depends on what you mean by “benefit.”
          Nothing is better for a school’s brand than a winning D1 football or basketball team. This is a huge issue for boys – they want to go to school that they can root for.

        • Sure but that’s a far cry from saying a college education = sitting in a lecture room and nothing else.

          One other thing that would be interesting to know regarding how much athletic directors is how much those figures are skewed by a relatively small number universities. I mean, I know the athletic director at Vassar is not earning as much as her counterpart at Wisconsin.

          • NewishLawyer

            Wasn’t there an uproar a few years ago about Vassar canning the creative writing department and concentrating a bit more on sports? I seem to recall my fellow Vassar classmates being in an uproar about it.

            • Unemployed Northeastern

              I still can’t believe Vassar has graduate programs.

              • NewishLawyer

                I think most people don’t know about them and would be surprised they existed.

                The number of people who get the degree can probably be counted on one hand.

    • NewishLawyer

      As far as I can tell, campuses have gotten more luxurious as society has gotten wealthier and I am unsure if an absolutely Spartan campus could attract students but it would be an interesting experiment.

      My undergrad adviser told me his father showed up to undergrad in the 1950s with a typewriter and three or so changes of clothes. His father also grew up a first or second generation American during the Depression. Read: Dirt Poor.

      I went to undergrad between 1998-2002 and my dorm experience was Spartan compared to the thrills I hear about today.

      Today’s university students probably grew up as only children or with one other sibling in large suburban homes and never having to share a bedroom. My bet is that students would rebel against something ultra-no thrills and that did not have a college experience.

      I didn’t care about sports in college and went to a DIII school without a Greek scene on purpose. I still think no-thrills would be lacking.

    • Warren Terra

      I’d love to see a state create a college/university that was stripped down to its basic educational mission – no athletics, no extracurriculars, just classes and such research as could be done without major equipment

      That is not a university. The whole point of a university (or to a lesser degree a good college) is that it has faculty on campus who are pushing the boundaries of knowledge, that the student can meet them, study with them, work for them, train under them. That the student might themselves go on to push the boundaries of knowledge, or at least understand the endeavor whatever they wind up doing. You can’t do that without serious labs, serious research libraries and travel opportunities for the humanities professors, etcetera. At a great University, you know that if you know on enough doors (or ask around, or Google) you’ll find someone who’s genuinely an expert on anything you might want to learn about, or if experts in your particular field of inquiry are so vanishingly rare that doesn’t happen you’ll at least find someone quite knowledgeable, who knows the experts.

      What you’re describing is the University of Phoenix, or perhaps a traditional nearly-vocational Community College. There’s a place for that (and teaching could have a higher priority at genuine universities – not I talked at length about the intellectual and arguably personal qualities of the faculty, and not their commitment to or aptitude for the classroom) – but it’s not a real University.

    • SamChevre

      stripped down to its basic educational mission…little excuse for most of the typical university’s administration

      This would be very hard to do–even community colleges have a big chunk of “administration.” Financial aid, accreditation and federal reporting, IT, and disability services are not optional if you are a “real” (accredited) college.

  • Whiskers

    Of course they’re a good thing. How else are non-math nerds going to get rich?

    • Warren Terra

      University Presidents now are far more likely to be Jocks than Nerds – or if not jocks precisely, intellectual mediocrities with great social skills. The new requirements of the job prize bonhomie, attractiveness, and team spirit more than intellectual achievement. For every Drew Gilpin Faust there’s a half-dozen cardboard cutouts with brilliant, memorable smiles.

  • JDEsq

    I am not sure if you have data for law professors specifically from 1979, here are some recent figures:


    I assume the full professor figures you have are for undergrads.

    • Paul Campos

      It’s for all faculty. There are some assistant professors in the med school getting 200K+, and $170K in the law school, which helps pump up the figures in that category some (the typical assistant prof in LS&A is at around $80K).

      • Academic Spouse

        My humanities professor wife started in the upper $40s in the mid 00s. She was recently tenured (she had to pause her clock for a couple of kids). She’s now making a touch north of $70k. My guess is that she’s in the top quintile and maybe top 10% in her (big) department, though she’s the undisputed superstar (only one with a book from a top press, only one with extensive outside grants, only one to serve on national committee, etc.).

        By the way, her experience has really opened my eyes to male-female pay discrepancy. They’ve hired a couple of men in her sub-department in the past five years. The first one (around 2010) started at $55k. The second one (last year) is starting at $60k. When my wife questioned why she started at a significantly lower salary only a few years before, she was told that the university wanted to pay closer to “market,” and (implicitly more importantly), such a big pay discrepancy between two pre-tenure (now pre-tenure and recently-tenured) faculty members would be “unfair” (read: it might hurt the male’s fee-fees if he found out a girl was making a lot more than he was).

        • lnthga

          Salary compression (recent hires getting paid more than past hires) is a real thing although I’m not saying there isn’t discrimination going on there.

      • NonyNony

        It would be useful if you had access to the data for median salaries for professors then, rather than averages.

        Because you’re right – there are going to be some folks in the med school and law school that are going to skew the hell out of that average.

        • Paul Campos

          Eyeballing the data it appears that median salaries are about 10% lower than means for assistant and associate professors, and 5% lower for fulls. (Again this is at an elite public, which has much higher than average and median faculty salaries).

      • Bloix

        A relative of mine is a medical school professor. He is 100% responsible for funding his lab: his own salary, overhead to the university for the facilities, salaries for his post-docs and techs. A huge part of his job is grant-writing. If he doesn’t bring in the money, it doesn’t matter that he has tenure – he doesn’t get paid. My relative is not a cost to his university: he is a profit center.

        And he is not unusual:

        “Most scientists finance their laboratories (and often even their own salaries) by applying to government agencies and private foundations for grants… In 2007 a U.S. government study found that university faculty members spend about 40 percent of their research time navigating the bureaucratic labyrinth…”


  • Brett

    That 2013 compensation doesn’t seem too extraordinary, especially if they’re on top of a college/university with hundreds/thousands of staff and tens of thousands of students. You can mock the “compete with the private sector” factor, but that nonetheless is a big factor with compensation – universities don’t want second-rate leadership anymore than any other organization, and they’re going to bridle at anyone who tells them they have to settle for that because they think the compensation is too high.

    It wasn’t as much of a problem 35 years ago because of vastly higher tax rates, which not only made paying higher compensation expensive but also made it too expensive for companies and other organizations to compete with each other for executives based on compensation.

    • Whiskers

      There is no competition with the private sector. Academic administrators, people like presidents and provosts 1) have no equivalent in the private sector and 2) are promoted from within the ranks of the academy, and 3) generally require academic records and backgrounds. There are no private companies hiring professors and deans to be their CEO.

      • BoredJD


      • Srsly Dad Y

        4) Outside the academy, pay parity actually becomes a problem for the nonprofit sector, because you get Wall Street and Silicon Valley refugees who can impress hiring committees and land high-paid nonprofit gigs they don’t belong in.

  • Assistant Professor 2013 looks like it mistakenly replicates Full Professor 2013.

  • Whiskers

    When people are paid really high salaries, they become job creators, so of course its a good thing. Duh.

    • BigHank53

      Making excuses for the 1% is a job now? Are the benefits good?

      • ChrisTS

        You’ll have to ask David Brooks and Ross Doughface.

  • Orin Kerr

    I’m not sure what I think about such high salaries for University presidents and Deans. Deans and University Presidents normally are picked only from within the ranks of tenured full professors. As far as I can tell, the skills to become a tenured full professor have nothing in common with the skills to be a successful Dean or President. Perhaps this wasn’t true in the old days, but the Dean/President job isn’t an academic position any more: It’s now entirely a fund-raising and management job that happens to be at an academic institution. Further, the job seems to be intensely time-consuming. The number of hours worked by a law school Dean or a University President is probably in the ball park of double that of a typical senior tenured professor. So hiring for a Deanship or a University Presidency involves looking only within a small and self-contained group of people with one skill set and finding someone to work grueling hours for a few years on matters involving a totally different skill set. Off the top of my head, it makes sense that this would involve a really major pay increase over the tenured full professor job. I don’t know how much of a pay increase is sensible and what isn’t sensible. But it’s not obvious to me that schools would be better off with lower salaries for the Deans/Presidents relative to the full professors from which they are chosen.

    • Whiskers

      I don’t know that that’s the right question- whether the schools would be better off with lower salaried presidents. According to Paul’s data about Michigan, from ’79 to ’13, the president’s salary has increased by 179%. What has changed that such a drastic increase is needed to attract a quality president from within the ranks of faculty? Is the quality of today’s highly compensated presidents that much better than it was in 1979?

      • Orin Kerr

        My impression is that the job today is very different from what it was in the 1970s. My impression is that, in the 1970s, being a university president was still partly an academic position with some management responsibility. Today, being a university president is largely a fund-raising job with major management responsibilities instead of being an academic post. At least that’s my impression. Maybe I’m wrong.

    • Tiny Tim

      I think there’s something to the idea that president is a more all-consuming position than it used to be, for the same reasons that many jobs are (cell phones, email, always on), but it is in large part due to the failure of these people to be good managers and delegate. Provost (and Deans at larger schools) positions exist for a reason. Let them do the work.

      • Orin Kerr

        So they’re paid so much because they’re not good at their jobs?

    • ChrisTS

      I would grant that my SLAC’s president works more hours, annually, than I do as a professor. On the other hand, I don’t think he works that much more, and much of his work is glad-handing the trustees and other folks. Furthermore, he has a Provost, several Deans, and lots of other people to delegate to.

      He also gets a house, a car and driver, full time maid service, a cook, grounds crew, and a nice travel budget. I could work more if someone took care of daily life for me.

      • Orin Kerr

        Chris, just curious: How much of a salary increase would it take for you to commit a few years of your life to getting experience to help you get such a job and then to do that job?Assume that you will be spending most of your time fundraising, and that you will be out of town on travel about 100 days a year. Would you do it for your current salary? Twice your salary? More?

        • Whiskers

          He can answer for himself, but if you like what you’re already doing, the answer might be no higher salary would get you to make that switch. On the other hand, if you’re already inclined in that direction, it won’t take tons of money to get you to follow that path.

          I don’t think there are any university presidents who were perfectly happy teaching and doing research but couldn’t resist when administrative money was dangled in front of them.

          • NewishLawyer

            Except that people often take or want certain jobs because of the money even if they love the job.

    • Anonymous

      How much of this is simply politics and the Trustees helping out their good friend with a nice compensation package. Penn-State’s President was getting what, one-million . . and still he allowed a pedophile-rapist to remain on the job. How much talent did that take?

  • Joshua

    Raymond Cotton’s article is hilarious. The smug condescension (“their pay is obviously set by the marketplace, you dolts and/or commies”) paired with the unwavering confidence and belief in this con just makes me think that Cotton is a professional butt-kisser of the highest order.

  • Joseph Slater

    Dumb question, but are the salary figures in “constant dollars” (adjusted for inflation) or not?

    • Whiskers

      “All figures are in constant 2013 dollars”

      • Joseph Slater

        Thanks, stupid of me to miss that.

  • Anonymous

    It is well known that the outgoing President of the University of Michigan has been forced for years now to supplement her low salary with corporate board service for Johnson and Johnson, and Meredith. For 2009, this included $229,978 in stock and cash from J&J.


    But she is responsible for several amazing initiatives:

    “Mary Sue Coleman has led the University of Michigan since being appointed its 13th president in August 2002.

    As president, she has unveiled several major initiatives that will have an impact on future generations of students, the intellectual life of the campus, and society at large. These initiatives include the interdisciplinary richness of the U-M, student residential life, the economic vitality of the state and nation, global engagement, and the value of innovation and creativity.”


    Not sure what the above means–is it in Michiganese? but you can’t overpay for this kind of leadership.

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