The latest annual compilation by The Chronicle of Higher Education covers data from 2010, due to lag time in the release of federal tax information. That year, median compensation for the 494 presidents in the survey — leaders of institutions with budgets of at least $50 million — was $396,649, or 2.8 percent higher than in last year's survey. But median base salary fell slightly, by less than 1 percent.
The highest paid was Bob Kerrey, who was president of The New School in New York until December, 2010 before returning to Nebraska, where he made an unsuccessful run to return to the U.S Senate. Kerrey's total compensation over more than $3 million. His base salary was just over $600,000, but he received a $1.2 million retention bonus and more than $620,000 in deferred compensation.
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.