Last updated: June 04. 2014 1:37AM - 348 Views

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The Chronicle of Higher Education came out with an eye-opening report last week, showing that nine public college presidents earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2013.

Topping the list was Gordon Gee, who was paid $6.1 million as the head of Ohio State University. Of course much of that was related to his departure. Gee’s big haul includes $3.3 million in deferred pay and $1.55 million in retirement and severance pay.

Gee has now moved to West Virginia University, where he is expected to make a more modest $775,000. Most of the other top-paid public college presidents earned in the $1 million to $1.6 million range. Pay is even higher for some private college presidents, with an earlier survey showing 42 making more than a million, with a handful earning more than $3 million a year.

The median pay for presidents in the Chronicle’s survey of public institutions was $479,000, and the median pay for private ones was a little less. Most of the presidents in West Virginia are below that mark, but many in Ohio and Kentucky are much higher.

But overall — for public and private, large schools and small — salaries have been rising sharply over the past decade.

Without question, colleges and universities can be huge operations with huge budgets. Today’s presidents are not only charged with charting a vision for their institutions, but also developing a plan to pay for it all in a day when state funding is on the decline.

So, it is easy to see how college boards can view their top executives in the same light as the highly compensated CEOs that run our nation’s largest corporations.

But higher education is a different animal.

Most colleges and universities are nonprofits, charged with the special mission of providing a life-changing education to students from all walks of life. Public schools, in particular, have a responsibility to provide that education at the most reasonable price possible.

— The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington

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