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January 21, 2010

Chancellor’s pay 30th among public higher ed peers

A survey released this week by The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that Chancellor Mark Nordenberg again ranked 30th nationally in compensation for public university chief executive officers in 2008-09, despite a pay freeze for Pitt officers in effect since July 1, 2008.

(The Board of Trustees compensation committee, which sets the chancellor’s salary, has taken no public action regarding his salary for the current fiscal year.)

Nordenberg’s $600,045 total compensation package for 2008-09 included $460,000 in base salary; $75,000 in deferred compensation; $65,045 in retirement pay, and use of a house and car.

According to the Chronicle, “On the whole, executive pay continued to rise in 2008-09 — but at a much slower pace than in recent years. The median total compensation last year for chief executives at the public institutions included in the survey was $436,111— a 2.3 percent increase over 2007-08. Last year pay rose 7.6 percent.”

Nordenberg wasn’t the only university leader to have his pay frozen. According to the Chronicle survey, base salaries were frozen last year for more than one-third of the 185 public university chief executives, while 10 percent of them saw a decline in total compensation.

Eleven CEOs earned at least $700,000, down from 15 in 2007-08, the Chronicle noted.

The Chronicle survey used data from June 30, 2008, to July 1, 2009, for 185 four-year public universities and systems, including 153 public universities with total enrollments of at least 10,000 that are classified as either research universities or doctoral/research universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, as well as the university systems associated with them.

(A survey on compensation for private institutions’ chief executives was published by the Chronicle in November.)

Total-compensation figures in the survey include salary and benefits from institutional and private sources, annualized amounts of deferred compensation and the amount of bonuses for which chief executives qualified during the fiscal year.

Retirement pay, the amount contributed by the institution or state to a chief executive’s retirement plans during the fiscal year, also is counted in total compensation by the survey.

Housing and car allowances are included in the survey report. The use of a university- or state-owned house or car, however, is not. Use of such a car or house, as well as benefits such as club dues and expense accounts, are listed as part of compensation, but no dollar amount for such benefits is added to total compensation, the Chronicle stated.

In Nordenberg’s case, the $600,045 total compensation reported in the Chronicle represents what he earned, but does not represent what he took home.

Under a 2007 extension of the Board of Trustees’ 2002 retention incentive pay plan, Nordenberg earned $75,000 for the fiscal year ending July 1, 2009, because he remained in his position for that year. But according to Robert Hill, vice chancellor for Public Affairs, given the sour economic times, Nordenberg chose to use an unspecified amount of his retention bonus “to make new commitments to the University’s ongoing capital campaign.” (See July 9, 2009, University Times.)

According to the Chronicle’s 2008-09 survey, at other Pennsylvania four-year public institutions:

• Penn State’s president, Graham B. Spanier, ranked No. 18 nationally, earning $642,760 in total compensation (up from $611,367 in the previous year’s survey). That included $620,000 in base salary; $22,760 in retirement pay and club dues, and use of a house and car.

• Temple President Ann Weaver Hart ranked No. 28 nationally, earning $602,403 in total compensation (up from $572,900 in 2007-08). Her compensation included $527,403 in base salary; $75,000 in deferred compensation, and use of a house and car.

• Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh ranked No. 128 nationally, earning  $365,725 in total compensation. That included $327,500 in salary; $30,425 in retirement pay; $7,800 provided by the state for a car, and use of a house.

Cavanaugh’s predecessor as state system chancellor, Judy G. Hample, earned $364,865 in total compensation in 2007-08.

• Tony Atwater, president of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, ranked 171st nationally, earning $283,562  in total compensation (up from $269,094 in 2008-09). That represented $252,321 in base salary; $23,441 in retirement pay; $7,800 provided by the state for a car, and use of house.

According to the Chronicle survey, the top-paid leader of a public institution was E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State University at $1,576,825 (up from $1,346,225 last year, when he also was highest-compensated nationally).

The Chronicle survey report can be accessed online at

—Peter Hart