15 college presidents who've been paid millionaire salaries

Dave Kotinsky/Getty ImagesColumbia University President Lee C. Bollinger speaks at the 97th Annual Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music Winners Luncheon on May 30, 2013.
  • Pay for university presidents has risen dramatically over the last several years, according to data from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • The highest-paid university president in the Chronicle’s ranking was Ronald Machtley, who stepped down this past summer. He was making 50 times the average faculty member.
  • Here are the 15 highest-paid public and private university presidents. The most recent data is as of 2017 for private university presidents, and 2019 for public university presidents.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Much like business-executive pay, university-president compensation has grown over the past decade.

The Chronicle updated its executive compensation tracker in July 2020 to include the most recent data on salaries from public and private institutions. The most recent data for public university salaries is from 2019, while the most recent data for private university salaries is from 2017.


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The highest-paid university president in the ranking is the former president of Bryant University, Ronald K. Machtley. He stepped down this past summer, but he made $US6,283,616 in 2017 — or 50 times what the average professor earns at the university.

Most of the highest-paid presidents preside over private colleges, but two public-university presidents made the top 15: Georgia State University President Mark P. Becker and former Auburn University President Steve Leath.

A handful of the highest-paid college presidents have resigned from their posts. A couple did due to scandal — the former president of the University of Southern California, CL Max Nikias, for example, departed in 2018 after 200 professors signed a letter accusing him of mishandling allegations of sexual assault involving a former campus gynecologist.

The gap between what faculty members and presidents earn has also risen. Tenure-track positions have shrunk as low-wage adjunct professors — who typically work without benefits — increase on campuses, according to the American Association of University Professors.

“There has never been as great a discrepancy in higher education between those who are the highest paid and those who are the lowest paid,” William Tierney, professor and co-director of the Pullias Centre for Higher Education at the University of Southern California, told The Washington Post. “What higher education is doing is mirroring the behaviours of the corporate world.”

Here are the highest-paid university presidents from private and public colleges in the US:


15. Johns Hopkins University’s Ronald J. Daniels made $US1,734,651 in 2017.

AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyJohns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels.

Base pay: $US1,281,704

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 16:1


14. Northwestern University’s Morton O. Schapiro made $US1,788,821 in 2017.

Timothy Hiatt/Getty ImagesSeth Meyers (left) and Northwestern University President Morton O. Schapiro attend the university commencement on June 17, 2016 in Evanston, Illinois.

Base pay: $US1,096,539

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 9:1


13. Auburn University’s Steven Leath made $US1,836,226 in 2019. He resigned that same year.

Michael Chang

Base pay: $US324,399

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 4:1


12. George Washington University’s former President Steven Knapp made $US1,945,528 in 2017. He stepped down that same year.

Kriss Connor/Getty ImagesSteven Knapp speaks during the 2012 George Washington University Commencement on May 20, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Base pay: $US728,187

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 11:1


11. Quinnipiac University’s John L. Lahey made $US2,045,417 in 2017. He retired in 2018.

Stan Godlewski/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesView of Quinnipiac University’s campus.

Base pay: $US1,060,000

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 16:1


10. Yeshiva University’s former President Richard M. Joel made $US2,196,103 in 2017. He stepped down in 2017.

Sharon Pulwer/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesYeshiva University’s Manhattan campus.

Base pay: $US660,234

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 12:1


9. Savannah College of Art and Design’s President Paula Wallace made $US2,196,808 in 2017.

Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SCADSCAD President Paula Wallace speaks at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival on October 27, 2019 in Savannah, Georgia.

Base pay: $US966,347

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 27:1


8. Columbia’s President Lee Bollinger made $US2,211,069 in 2017.

Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Base pay: $US1,405,761

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 10:1


7. The University of Southern California’s former President CL Max Nikias made $US2,404, 232 in 2017. He resigned in 2018.

Ronen Tivony/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty ImagesCL Max Nikias at USC commencement in Los Angeles, California in 2018.

Base pay: $US1,467,330

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 13:1

Nikias stepped down in 2018 after 200 professors signed a letter accusing him of mishandling allegations of sexual assault involving a former campus gynecologist.


6. Texas Christian University’s Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. made $US2,644,209 in 2017.

Ian McVea/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesTCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. speaks at a press conference in 2011.

Base pay: $US1,124,673

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 18:1


5. Georgia State University’s President Mark P. Becker made $US2,806,517 in 2019.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York TimesGeorgia State University President Mark Becker speaking at a conference in 2013.

Base pay: $US588,279

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 23:1


4. The University of Pennsylvania’s President Amy Gutmann made $US2,930,315 in 2017.

Getty Images

Base pay: $US1,369,096

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 13:1


3. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s President Shirley Ann Jackson made $US5,155,038 in 2017.

Paul Marotta/Getty ImagesRensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson.

Base pay: $US1,168,500

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 35:1


2. Johnson and Wales University’s former Chancellor and President John J. Bowen made $US5,363,616 in 2017. He retired in 2018.

Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesJohnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Base pay: $US706,666

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 50:1


1. Former Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley made $US6,283,616 in 2017. He stepped down in June 2020.

Bryant UniversityFormer Bryant University President Ronald K. Machtley.

Base pay: $US672,885

Ratio of total compensation to average full-professor salary: 50:1

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