University presidents see salary raises

Daina Amorosano

As the economic downturn throughout the country and the world deepens, families and students from a range of socioeconomic classes have been facing increased difficulty in dealing with the rising costs of higher education.

However, according to a recent survey released by The Chronicle of Higher Education, tuition is not the only cost going up; the salaries of university presidents at both private and public institutions have also been increasing steadily and disproportionately to inflation.

Many university leaders have recently received compensation in the range of $1 million.

In 2006, John Hopkins University President William Brody earned $1.06 million.

Public college leaders have also partaken in the presidential salary spike.

In the past five years, the salaries of public university presidents have risen more than 35 percent, and in the last year alone, they have risen by more than 7 percent.

Last year, John Casteen III, president of the University of Virginia, received almost $800,000 in compensation.

For Villanova, it is difficult to obtain official presidential salary information because the president is an Augustinian priest.

As such, Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., does not take a salary. Although as an Augustinian priest he is not required to take a vow of poverty, Donohue has taken one. Therefore, the University does not pay him directly. Instead, his compensation goes to the Order of St. Augustine.

The University makes a payment to the Order of St. Augustine equal to the value of what the president would receive as compensation if he were paid. 

This process is the same for all of the Augustinians who work and/or teach at Villanova. 

Although the exact figures are unavailable, the University says it calculates a compensation value based on the services provided by the Augustinians at Villanova and pays that amount to the Order.  The Order of St. Augustine takes care of the necessities of its members, including food and housing. It is also able to accept donations and charity.

Given the amount of work involved and the importance of the president’s contributions, some defend the enormous salaries.

Villanova University’s Web site offers an overview of faculty and staff compensation, explaining its centrality to the fulfillment of the institution’s mission.

According to Villanova’s Department of Human Resources Web site, “By recruiting, hiring and retaining quality employees, the University can excel as a leader in higher education.”

“A market-competitive compensation program for staff is an integral component in developing an exemplary workforce dedicated to our mission.”

As compensation for other faculty members remains the same, and students and their families deal with ever-increasing tuition prices, it makes sense that there has been growing concern about such high salaries.

“No one should discount the importance of competitive compensation for university faculty and staff, but it is not shocking that people are raising their eyebrows at presidential salaries of up to and over $1 million,” sophomore economics major Mike Anderson said.

People are paying more attention to university presidents’ salaries, and presidents have admitted sensitivity to the situation.

In the week since the survey was released, a handful of the highest-paid presidents have announced that they would give back a portion of their salary, take considerable pay cuts or decline any further raises.