Sample among top paid university presidents

The number of university presidents receiving salaries more than $ 1 million is rising, according to a report by The Chronicle for Higher Education that analyzed federal tax documents from the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

Of 448 institutions of higher learning survey, 30 presidents earned in the seven-figures range in 2008, including former USC president Steven B. Sample.

Sample had the fifth highest income of university presidents surveyed, reporting $1,913,927 in earnings.

However, this number was probably inflated, as top-earners are often university presidents who receive payouts when stepping down, according to the Los Angeles Times. Two of the top 10 earners had died and one president, in addition to Sample, was retired. In November 2009, the L.A. Times said Sample’s salary was approximately $800,000 a year.

The highest paid sitting president was Southern Methodist University’s Gerald R. Turner at just under $2.8 million in total compensation. But, according to the university, Turner cashed out a life-insurance policy and bought his own policy, increasing his total pay by $1.5 million.

Other schools with high-earning sitting presidents include Vanderbilt University (just more than $2.4 million), Columbia University (just less than $1.8 million) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (more than $1.6 million).

Raymond D. Cotton, a lawyer who specializes in presidential contracts, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that he expects executive salaries to rise because more boards consist of businesspeople adopting practices from the for-profit sector. Many baby boomers who are college presidents are retiring, he said, and the boards will compete against each other for the best, making them more willing to offer larger salaries.

“Presidential compensation has been shooting up because of a disparity between supply and demand in the marketplace,” he told The Chronicle. “There continues to be a greater demand for people who can do these jobs well than there is a supply.”