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Presidents of private colleges in Western Pa. yet to crack $1 million mark in compensation

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Compensation for presidents of private colleges has continued to rise nationally, but none in Western Pennsylvania has yet cracked the $1 million mark.

Pay packages for a dozen presidents in Western Pennsylvania ranged from $178,461 for Sister Candace Introcaso at La Roche College to $860,982 for Jared L. Cohon at Carnegie Mellon University, according to figures reported by the schools. The figures cover fiscal 2011.

Across the country, the number of $1 million presidents held steady at 36, according to the latest annual survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a national weekly on higher education. The data go back to 2010 because of lag time in the release of federal tax information.

That year, median compensation for the 494 presidents in the survey — leaders of institutions with budgets of at least $50 million — was $396,649, or 2.8 percent higher than in last year's survey. The median base salary fell, but by less than 1 percent.

Cohon's pay ranks third among presidents of private colleges in Pennsylvania and 50th nationwide, according to The Chronicle.

No. 1 in the state is Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania at $1.46 million; No. 2 is Alice P. Gast of Lehigh University at $917,877.

Holding the top spot nationwide was Bob Kerrey, who was president of The New School in New York until December 2010 before returning to Nebraska, where he made an unsuccessful run to return to the Senate. Kerrey's compensation was more than $3 million. His base salary was just over $600,000, but he received a $1.2 million retention bonus and more than $620,000 in deferred compensation.

It is common for such payments to inflate compensation for presidents in their final year in a position. Three presidents in 2010's top 10 are no longer at those institutions: Kerrey; David Pollick of Birmingham-Southern College; and Steven Sample of the University of Southern California.

The highest paid in 2010 who remains on the job is Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, who was No. 2 at $2.34 million, followed by Pollick, at $2.31 million. The highest base salary belonged to John Sexton of New York University and totaled $1.24 million out of $1.48 million total compensation.

The Chronicle previously compiled salary data for the presidents of public institutions, which was available for 2011. Those figures showed three public university presidents made more than $1 million in 2011, led by Gordon Gee of The Ohio State University with compensation of just under $2 million.

At the other end of the scale are presidents of roughly two dozen Roman Catholic institutions — including Villanova University, Boston College, Marquette and a number of smaller schools — whose compensation is zero. All are either clergy or members of religious orders.

The Chronicle reports this year that half of the institutions that employed the 50 highest-paid college presidents in 2010 used a practice called “grossing up,” adding additional cash and benefits to compensation packages to make up for the taxes recipients pay. The practice has been largely abandoned at publicly traded companies amid shareholder criticism, but it appears alive and well in the nonprofit sector.

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