Overcompensated and Underperforming
What’s more disturbing — that nine public college executives earned more than $1 million last year or that there appears to be little connection between president pay and college performance in serving students?
Of those nine executives, two lead institutions where the six-year graduation rate is far below the national average of 59 percent.
At the University of Houston, where President Renu Khator made $1.2 million last year, only 46.2 percent of students graduate in six years. While the University of Houston’s graduation rate ticked up by only one-tenth of 1 percentage point between 2011 and 2012, Khator’s total compensation increased by 75.3 percent.
Median compensation for the 256 public college leaders that The Chronicle of Higher Education studied was $478,896, but the 30 highest paid executives all made more than $600,000. Many lead institutions that serve their students well, but several lead colleges with significant graduation rate gaps among student groups.
Take the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for example, where President Eric W. Kaler made more than $600,000 last year. The University of Minnesota has an overall six-year graduation rate of 72.9 percent. Not bad by national standards. But among Minnesota Gophers, less than half of African American students graduate, while 76 percent of their white peers do. That’s a 26-percentage-point graduation rate gap. And before anyone goes blaming the students, know that the University of Minnesota has the largest black-white graduation rate gap among its peer institutions serving similar students with similar characteristics.
The core mission of any university, and consequently its leadership, is to educate students and help them complete a degree. With poor and disparate student outcomes, colleges like the University of Houston and the University of Minnesota should invest more resources in their students, instead of their underperforming leaders.