Gazette Online, IA
Attracting, keeping a university president is a competitive business
By Diane Heldt
IOWA CITY — Attracting and keeping a university president is an increasingly
competitive business, as the minimum pay among top public research
universities now exceeds $450,000, a national report released Monday shows.
State Board of Regents members, who set the salaries for presidents at the
University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa,
said the rising salaries are a concern because they want to remain competitive
enough to keep three strong presidents.
"The competition absolutely is increasing. It's an arms race," Regent Bob
Downer, of Iowa City, said. "While I understand that talented people are entitled
to be well paid, and I wouldn't have it any other way, at the same time it is very
hard to keep up when everybody is trying to get the jump on everyone else."
That played a major role in setting UI President Sally Mason's salary when she
was hired in June, and in doling out raises in August to ISU President Gregory
Geoffroy and UNI President Ben Allen, several regents said.
Mason's base salary of $450,000 is a large jump compared to that paid previous
UI presidents, while Geoffroy and Allen received raises of 23 percent and 9
percent, respectively. All three also have deferred compensation packages or
bonuses on top of base salary.
Mason's total package is $560,000, Geoffroy's is $473,316 and Allen's is
Another example of rising salaries come from Michael Hogan, the UI's provost
until September, when he became president at the University of Connecticut,
Last year, 56 of the 182 public universities in the national survey paid their
president at least $450,000, and it's the minimum that "big players" are expected
to spend, according to the annual report on presidential salaries by the Chronicle
of Higher Education.
The escalating salaries stem from increasing competition for leaders, due partly
to the growing number of presidents reaching retirement age.
It's a matter of demand for experienced, qualified candidates outstripping the
supply, David Miles, regents president pro tem, said. "We're at a period of turning
the page in terms of the number of our presidents approaching retirement age,"
Miles, of West Des Moines, said. "There's lots of us out there scrambling for a
Almost all of the largest and best-known research institutions topped the
$450,000 salary threshold last year, the Chronicle's report said. But exceptions
existed, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the
University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Eight public universities paid at least $700,000 to their presidents last year,
compared with two the year before. At private institutions, the pay often tops
Miles and Downer also point out the great demands on university presidents.
"You've got to have your face on 24/7. And you're out there meeting people,
dealing with crisis, never away from the telephone, you've got umpteen
constituencies you're serving," Downer said.
The UI's past two presidents are earning big bucks elsewhere. Mary Sue
Coleman earned a $516,501 base salary and $743,151 total package at the
University of Michigan last year. Former president David Skorton's salary as
Cornell University president was not available because the Chronicle's data for
private institutions was from 2005-06, but his predecessor at Cornell, Hunter
Rawlings, also a former UI president, earned a total package of $709,932.
Among Iowa's private colleges, Grinnell University President Russell Osgood
topped the list, with a salary of $425,200 and a package of $538,761. Coe
College President James Phifer earned a $194,240 salary and $267,381
package; Cornell College President Les Garner earned a $193,000 salary and
$228,729 package; Luther College President Richard Torgerson earned a
$213,750 salary and a $245,214 package; Upper Iowa University President Alan
Walker earned a $178,800 salary and $218,062 package; and Wartburg College
President Jack Ohle earned a $229,934 salary and $275,637 package.