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December 17, 2013 12:20 PM College Presidents Are Not (By and Large) Poor People

By Ed Kilgore

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a long list ranking the nation’s private college presidents by total compensation. Numero uno is Robert Zimmer of the University of Chicago, who pulls down over $3.3 million a year. But the most highly compensated for the size and complexity of the school may be Esther Barrazone of Chatham University, who earns $1.8 million to run a much smaller institution. Down at the bottom of the charts are a sprinkling of school presidents—mostly members of Catholic religious orders—who earn little or nothing.

Now college presidents get paid so much because they typically spend a lot of their time doing fundraising. I don’t get paid very much at all (if bloggers were suddenly projected onto the CHE chart, I’d be down there with the monks and nuns), but I also only have to do fundraising this one month a year. I guess it’s kind of weird to ask for a tax-deductible donation to help cover the costs (financial and psychic) of rattling a cup in your vicinity. But on the other hand, the more you give, the less I have to fret over insufficiently helping pay the freight. I’d fret a lot more if I was earning the $468,201 that the 200th highest-paid private college president in the U.S. got last year. But I’d fret in greater comfort.

UPDATE: Yes, Commenter Bob, “udders” for “orders” was indeed a spellcheck-run-amok mistake, not a Freudian slip. Methinks the new version of Safari I’m now using has the autocorrect feature (or bug) we’ve all experienced to our embarrassment on text messages. My poor wife, who is on a business trip to Louisiana at the moment, will probably have to walk me through the procedure of shutting it down. I’m pretty sure I commit fewer spelling errors than expressions an auto-check system is going to get wrong.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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