The economy and thousands of American citizens struggle and suffer while private college presidents receive raises on their already-bulging paychecks. There are 36 college presidents making millions — one of which is the president of a failing West Virginia college with one of the worst graduation rates in the entire country. The Chronicle notes that the typical private college president earns 3.7 times as much as the average full time professor on the campus. Here are five fat cat, overpaid college presidents that make us consider the alternative of an online university.
Charles Polk – Mountain State University
Polk isn’t entirely a lousy guy. He transformed the meager two-year school with a few hundred students into a four-year college of 9,000. It’s unclear how many of those students are pursuing an online university, however, and the transformation took over 20 years. Polk became the president in 1990, and despite his slow progress, the school is still having problems. Only 8% of first-time, full-time students graduated from six-year programs.
Polk essentially says he’s still working on it, but none of this would be particularly horrible if it weren’t for the fact that his salary makes up a whopping 3.5% of college expenditures. Typically, the president’s compensation should only end up being about 0.4% of the budget. When the school was confronted about his large salary, they essentially said that Polk deserves the money for all the outstanding changes he’s made, and that the university isn’t worried about its accreditation issues.
Constantine Papadakis – Drexel University
Papadakis is no longer the highest paid college president in the nation, but that’s only because he died in 2009. After that, his total compensation came out to $4.9 million dollars with life insurance and whatever other undeserved money his wife received. Papadakis was earning a base salary of $196,000 while alive — significantly less than post-mortem. In a time when higher education is under scrutiny due to soaring prices and not enough guarantees of stability upon graduation, Drexel’s almost 5 million dollar pay out certainly looks terrible. This makes online university look like a great option, especially since expensive in-person schooling largely funds behind-the-scenes mystery men instead of programs and school equipment. Drexel officials defended Papadakis’ salary and said he was “an innovative leader who transformed a struggling institution into a comprehensive, top-ranked national research university.”
Nicholas S Zeppos – Vanderbilt University
Zeppos is another one of the top ten wealthiest college presidents. His compensation totaled over $1 million dollars, about the same as another financial officer in the same school. Interestingly enough, Vanderbilt also had the highest paid university chief in the nation, E. Gordon Gee (who left to become president of another college). The university defends these salaries and pumps out generic statements about how marvelous and worthy these people are. It’s also been said time and time again that these numbers are skewed because they include insurance, deferred compensation, and other accrued amounts. The truth is, while these guys may be distinguished, an online university is significantly cheaper — and most of us care more about that than funding people who are already smoking cigars made with hundred dollar bills.
Shirley Ann Jackson – Rensseleaer Polytechnic Institute
Jackson is predicted to be one college president who could be making a seven figure salary once the economy begins to shape up. Jackson made nearly $1.6 million, and apparently didn’t include any deferred payment or other weird loophole that makes it easy for the university to shrug off what is an obvious imbalance. However, Jackson has actually taken voluntary pay cuts this year. It’s an amusing gesture, but online university is still way cheaper. The reason experts think salaries are slated to increase has to do with all the stinky old people who are soon to retire.
“The baby boomers are retiring,” says an expert, “boards are in a scramble competing against each other for the remaining available talent.” Basically, these overpriced colleges with stiff tuitions are run by old money-grubbers who want to keep other old money-grubbers in office for as long as humanly possible.
Richard C. Levin – Yale
The Ivy League’s highest paid president was Levin, who banked $1.63 million in total compensation in 2009. This is about $600,000 higher than the average college president compensation at $385,909. It’s easy to be disdainful of those who are making extremely large amounts of money because we don’t necessarily know what their entire job encompasses, nor do we know what they do or have done so far. When college presidents are presiding over incessantly mediocre graduation rates and sub-par school equipment, one has to wonder what we could possibly be paying them millions to do. Where’s the progress? Textbooks are hundreds of dollars each, student loans often take decades to pay off, and many people are graduating into a jobless economy. Presidents or no presidents, the stack of facts certainly makes an online education look more appealing than ever.