Cost of College Part 3: Why do college presidents make so much?

$629, 200 dollars.

As I look at that figure I see visions of Christian Louboutins, Manolo Blanhiks and ending world hunger…okay maybe I can’t end all of world hunger, but with that kind of money I could definitely put a dent in it. As a journalist, I don’t even think I will make a six-figure salary and to be honest, I’m okay with that. I went into this profession to tell stories–not to make hundreds of thousands of dollars. The salary above, however, is made by someone whose life goal should be to shape the minds of America’s youth–minds like mine. Minds that need to be told to “keep trucking” despite the hard economy, lack of jobs, and quite frankly lack of money available for loans, scholarships and other tuition assistance programs. The man who made $629,200 for the 2007-2008 fiscal year is the President of my University- John Lahey . I do not begrudge him that money, because he does in fact do a good job of making my University one of my most favorite places to be, but in an economy such as this is it acceptable for him to make that kind of money? Is it acceptable for any high ranking executive to make that kind of money? I don’t think so.

A Connecticut Post article from this past summer entitled, “For university presidents, it’s more than academic,” described President Lahey’s salary from financial documents that Quinnipiac University was required to make public as John Morgan, a University spokesman, refused to give out the most current figures. The Post also told similar stories all across Connecticut, of other Presidents at other Universities. Yale’s President, Richard Levin, has one of the highest compensation packages in the nation, but reportedly has decreased his compensation from his 2007-2008 total of $911,000. Other Presidents, like Michael Hogan at the University of Connecticut, have refused their bonuses. Do not, however, for one second think that Hogan is the most munificent of the three–he still gets free housing, transportation–and a $550,000 salary.

Throughout the country, College Presidents are making upwards of half a million dollars while many of their students are forced to take on loan after loan to pay for their education. Many college graduates, particularly from from the private colleges listed in the Wall Street Journals’ most highly paid private college presidents list, gradate with at least $100,000 worth of debt–while their Presidents pull in over a million dollars. Is this fair? The Wall Street Journal–and others, including Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley–has also begun to ask this question. Their article, of November 2, 2009 lists the top 12 salaries in the Nation for College Presidents. Many of these Universities have also raised their tuition this year to cover their operational costs–which tend to include these massive salaries.

As I gathered and read all this information I started to wonder what this meant for me–and what it would mean down the road. Have we become a nation so accustomed to getting what we want, that we will get it at any cost? Have we become so dependent on “bailouts” that we will always wait for someone else to shoulder the costs? I believe this is a direct result of our societal leanings for the past year–we are a nation programed to blame our problems on the economy instead of looking at what exactly is going wrong within our individual organizations. It is time for University students to start examining what exactly is behind their tuition hikes and perhaps taking a page from the University of California’s book– and protesting late into the night for what they believe is right– lower tuition and the preservation of vital college programs, instead of salary hikes for our Presidents.

Head on over to 1,000 Dreams Fund to learn how to get funding for your dreams!