At the vast majority of institutions, paying the university president’s salary is a small piece of the overall budget pie, but I do think it’s interesting that according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s recent survey of private non-profit universities the median total compensation for a university president increased 2.2 percent from 2008 to 2009. What’s particularly striking in their survey, however, is that there are a handful of extremely well-compensated presidents of institutions that are not especially large or prestigious. Charles Polk of Mountain State University, for example, earned over $1.8 million in 2009.
The Obama administration took some baby steps recently to impose a bit of accountability on for-profit universities’ ability to get government subsidies. There’s a real need, in my view, to both toughen those measures and also apply them across the board. There can be big money in non-profits.