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More college presidents earning upwards of $500,000

Report attributes salary, benefits to stiff competition

WASHINGTON -- More college presidents are earning annual compensation of $500,000 or more, fueled in part by stiff competition by schools for the best candidates, according to a study.

About 112 of the 853 public and private university presidents surveyed said they had pay and benefits packages of more than half a million dollars, according to an annual report being published today in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The survey was based on incomes reported in the 2004-05 academic year.

The jump was more prominent among public university presidents: 42 presidents earned more than half a million dollars in the current survey, rising from 23 in the previous one. The median pay package for those leaders was $374,846, about 4 percent higher than the previous median of $360,000.

Private school presidents continued to be paid more, however. Seventy of those leaders earned more than $500,000.

The survey attributed the pay raises to increased competition among top candidates.

Audrey K. Doberstein, retired president of Wilmington College in Delaware, topped the list with a compensation package totaling $2.7 million; much of it represented one-time payments upon her retirement.

Doberstein was followed by Donald E. Ross, retired president of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., ($1.3 million) and Vanderbilt's E. Gordon Gee ($1.2 million).

David P. Roselle of the University of Delaware was the highest-paid public university president, receiving $979,571 in pay and benefits.

Among the leaders of Ivy League schools, Cornell University President Jeffrey Lehman topped the list, earning just over $1 million in pay and benefits.

Lawrence Summers, who resigned this year from Harvard, was paid $595,871, and James Wright of Dartmouth College earned $479,233.

The compensation of college presidents is increasingly comparable to those of corporate chief executives. John Curtis, director of research and public policy at the American Association of University Professors, was critical of the trend .

"Our concern is that that's not appropriate, when virtually all of the colleges and universities we talk about are still not-for-profit organizations, and that they also supposedly operate for the benefit of society, for the common good," he told Bloomberg News.

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