“Leadership in higher education at this moment really demands a level of modesty and forgoing high levels of compensation,” said Poliakoff, a vice president at the nonprofit American Council of Trustees and Alumni in Washington. “This is a time when students and their families are making enormous sacrifices to meet ever-rising tuition.”
Tuition is especially high at Penn State, where trustees this week approved a contract that will pay Barron, 62, a $200,000 “transitional payment” and an $800,000 starting salary when he assumes the presidency by May 12. The school's annual tuition and fees of about $17,000 make it the second-most-expensive public university for in-state undergraduates, behind only the University of Pittsburgh, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Barron's compensation will place him among the best-paid presidents and chancellors at public universities in the United States, a Chronicle of Higher Education analysis shows. The Chronicle last year listed only four chief executives at comparable schools whose overall compensation in 2011-12 eclipsed Barron's forecast salary and bonuses. A $1 million retention payment at the end of his five-year contract, paired with annual retention payments of $200,000 apiece, could bring his average pay to more than $1 million a year.