Salaries of public college presidents continue to increase

Martin Meehan, then chancellor of UMass Lowell, earned $411,812 during the 2014-15 academic year.
Martin Meehan, then chancellor of UMass Lowell, earned $411,812 during the 2014-15 academic year.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File 2015

Salaries of public college presidents continue to inch up nationwide, according to a new study that shows pay at the University of Massachusetts rising along with the national trend.

The median total compensation for leaders of taxpayer-supported colleges in the United States for the 2014-2015 school year was $431,000, an increase of 4.3 percent from the year before, according to the latest annual survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is set for release Monday.

The UMass president’s pay ranked 22 out of 259 presidents surveyed nationwide.

Because the latest survey uses data from 2014-2015 — the most recent consistently available nationwide — it reflects Robert Caret’s last year as UMass president. Caret left last summer to lead the University System of Maryland and was replaced by Martin T. Meehan, the former UMass Lowell chancellor.


Caret earned $702,818 in total compensation in 2014-2015, the data show. That included a base salary of $490,000, plus deferred compensation, bonuses, and a housing allowance. In Maryland, he is now paid a base salary of $600,00o plus other perks, including a university-owned mansion and a vehicle and driver.

Meehan, the new system president, makes $543,375 in base salary this year, plus more in bonuses. Last year, his first as system president, Meehan made $769,000 total compensation, according to his contract.

Caret had negotiated a new contract just before leaving, and Meehan’s pay is less than what UMass would be paying Caret had he not taken the job in Maryland.

Nationwide, five presidents were paid more than $1 million in 2014-2015, according to the Chronicle survey. Three of them, however, made the large sum because they switched jobs during the year and their total earnings therefore included severance packages, signing bonuses, or moving costs.

“One thing we saw is that it can pay to come or go as a college leader,” said Dan Bauman, data reporter with The Chronicle of Higher Education.


The analysis reflects the pay of 259 chief executives at 236 public colleges and systems, including all state college and university systems with at least three campuses and 50,000 students. It did not include state universities or community colleges in Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, Kumble R. Subbaswamy, chancellor of UMass Amherst, earned $483,620 in total compensation in the 2014-2015 school year. His pay has since risen thanks to a new contract signed in 2015.

The Chronicle data shows that as chancellor of UMass Lowell in 2014-2015, Meehan earned $411,812. J. Keith Motley, UMass Boston chancellor, that year earned $380,988.

Michael Collins, the medical school chancellor, made the most, $1.2 million, according to the data. The highest-paid UMass employee that year was basketball coach Derek Kellogg.

UMass trustees chairman Victor Woolridge said UMass must pay presidents competitively to attract talented leaders who can improve the system despite what he called inadequate state funding.

“We want to attract and retain special leaders — people who are driven to exceed expectations and outperform the competition,” Woolridge said in a statement sent by a UMass spokesman.

Faced with rising expenses and nearly flat state aid, UMass voted last week to raise tuition by an average 5.8 percent across the campuses, the third time in six years it has raised prices.

The increase will affect all campuses except the medical school and boost the average cost for in-state undergraduate students to $13,862 per year.


Globe correspondent Reis Thebault contributed to this report. Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.