You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Red Sox Live

0

0

▼  4th Inning 0 outs

editorial

Reaching an inflection point with college presidential pay?

There were signs in the recently released Chronicle of Higher Education report on college and university presidents’ paychecks that higher education is gaining a sense of limits. From 2010 to 2011, the total compensation for the chiefs of nonprofit higher-ed institutions edged up only 3.2 percent. But there were also signs of the old profligacy. The number of presidents collecting more than $1 million rose by 17 percent, to 42. And 2011 was a tough economic year, when median household income dropped and average student debt soared toward $30,000; one could argue that presidential compensation should have dropped as well. Next year’s survey will tell whether universities are serious about putting the brakes on presidential pay hikes.

Two of the nation’s five highest-compensated presidents were Northeastern’s Joseph Aoun, at $3.1 million, and former Tufts president Lawrence Bacow, at $2.2 million. Also in the million-dollar club were the presidents of Amherst College, Boston University, Brown University, and MIT. Northeastern rightly extolled the university’s across-the-board improvements under Aoun, whose salary included an as-yet-unpaid retirement bonus, while Tufts and Amherst pointed out that their payouts included lump-sum benefits to retiring chiefs.

Continue reading below

These explanations are reasonable enough, but don’t justify the extent of the dollars involved. Average presidential compensation more than doubled between 1999 and 2009, according to a survey by law professors Brian Galle of Boston College and David Walker of Boston University. They argue that is “difficult to explain” the steady rise in pay “as simply an increase in the cost of talent.”

But even in Galle and Walker’s study, there were indications that other stakeholders were beginning to pressure institutions to rein in executive compensation. Galle and Walker noted that schools whose high presidential salaries were widely reported often suffer a decline in alumni giving the following year. And now, students are starting to weigh the costs of high tuition. This is all as it should be. Running a university is a major responsibility, and should be compensated accordingly. But no one who goes into academia expects to draw Wall Street-level salaries. Higher-ed chiefs should be well-paid, but within a structure that recognizes the growing burdens on tuition-paying students.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.