It is common for such payments to inflate compensation for presidents in their final year in a position. Three presidents in 2010's top 10 are no longer at those institutions: Kerrey, David Pollick of Birmingham-Southern College, and Steven Sample of the University of Southern California.
The highest-paid in 2010 who remains on the job is Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, who was No. 2 at $2.34 million, followed by Pollick, at $2.31 million. The highest base salary belonged to John Sexton of New York University and totaled $1.24 million out of $1.48 million total compensation.
The Chronicle has previously compiled salary data for the presidents of public institutions, which was available for 2011. Those figures showed three public university presidents earned more than $1 million in 2011, led by Gordon Gee of Ohio State with total compensation of just under $2 million.
Then there's the other end of the scale presidents of roughly two dozen Roman Catholic institutions including Villanova University, Boston College, Marquette and a number of smaller schools, whose compensation is zero. All are either clergy or members of religious orders.
The Chronicle reports this year that half the institutions that employed the 50 highest-paid college presidents in 2010 used a practice called "grossing up," adding additional cash and benefits to compensation packages to make up for the taxes recipients pay. The practice has been largely abandoned at publicly traded companies due to shareholder criticism, but appears alive and well in the nonprofit sector.
10 highest-paid college presidents
Top 10 recipients, in total compensation, among private-college leaders in 2010.
$3,047,703 • Bob Kerrey,* The New School
$2,340,441 • Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
$2,312,098 • G. David Pollick,* Birmingham-Southern College
$2,268,837 • Mark S. Wrighton, Washington University in Saint Louis
$2,228,349 • Nicholas S. Zeppos, Vanderbilt University
$1,963,710 • Steven B. Sample*, University of Southern California
$1,932,931 • Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University
$1,616,066 • Richard C. Levin, Yale University
$1,597,918 • Robert J. Zimmer, University of Chicago
$1,550,218 • Jack P. Varsalona, Wilmington University (Del.)
* No longer president
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education