NAICU Statement on Executive Compensation at Private Colleges and Universities

November 14, 2010

Statement by David L. Warren, President, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Issued Upon Distribution of the Chronicle of Higher Education's Annual Presidential Salary Survey

The salaries of executives at private colleges and universities reflect supply and demand. Searches for these positions at a significant number of independent institutions are highly competitive, and colleges must offer compensation packages that attract qualified leaders. Salaries are largely set through marketplace studies.

The job of college president has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, as have the demands. There is just a small pool of candidates who possess the skill set that is required, and are willing to take on the stressful 24/7 nature of the position.

Presidents must have fund-raising expertise, political savvy, solid management experience, a strong business sense, the ability to develop and deliver an educational vision for the institution, negotiating and mediating skills, and the ability to represent the college effectively to diverse stakeholders. Presidents must be capable of administrating organizations with thousands of employees and budgets reaching hundreds of millions of dollars at many larger institutions.

Private college leaders face increased pressure on many fronts: severe budget shortfalls brought on by the Great Recession, uncertainty about the long-term sustainability of higher education’s traditional financial model, calls for further government regulation, greater competition from public and for-profit institutions, and consumer concerns about growing sticker prices.

A recent study by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) illustrates the impact of the growing pressures of the job on the size of the pool of qualified candidates. CIC reports that less than one in four chief academic officers at private colleges plan to pursue a presidency.

Presidential salaries make up a very small percentage of overall campus budgets, and have virtually no impact on tuition increases. In fact, inflation-adjusted net tuition at nonprofit private colleges and universities actually declined by 11.2 percent in the past five years, according to the College Board.


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