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College leaders fare well elsewhere

Some who left Iowa now among nation's highest-paid, survey shows

Lynn Campbell

Des Moines Register

November 26, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Des Moines Register.]

Some Iowa university presidents who left the state are now among the highest-paid college leaders in the nation, according to a new national survey of executive compensation.

Purdue University President Martin Jischke's total compensation package of $880,950 this year ranks second-highest in the nation among public university presidents, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education's latest salary survey.

Jischke was paid $227,000 a year by Iowa State University when he left in 2000 to become president of Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. He is retiring in June when his contract expires. His current compensation package includes a $400,000 retention bonus for staying until the end of his contract.

Jischke's situation is just one example of Iowa's relatively low salaries among university presidents and the difficulty the institutions have in retaining those leaders, according to national articles that ran Friday with the Chronicle's 2006-07 salary survey.

"The state has developed a reputation as a training ground for hotshot college chiefs who leave the state to run major research universities elsewhere," Chronicle reporter Annie Shuppy wrote.

The articles outlined how Iowa's three state universities have lost eight presidents in the past 19 years to jobs that paid significantly more. It also pointed out how the University of Iowa ranked last in presidential compensation among public universities in the Big Ten.

The national publicity comes as the Iowa Board of Regents launches a new search for president of the University of Iowa. Among the findings of the salary survey:

- Former U of I President David Skorton left last summer after three years to become president at Cornell University, an Ivy League school in Ithaca, N.Y. Skorton, whose salary was $302,050 at the U of I, vastly increased his earnings with the move. The Chronicle survey shows that former Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman, who resigned in June 2005, was paid more than $1 million in salary and benefits in 2004-05.

- Former U of I President Mary Sue Coleman was paid $234,746 in 2001-02, her last of seven years at Iowa. She took a job at the University of Michigan with a starting salary of $475,000, making her among the nation's highest-paid female college presidents. Today, her total compensation is $742,148, which does not include the automobile and house provided to her by the state.

Salaries in higher education are quickly escalating across the nation. The number of public university leaders making at least $500,000 a year nearly doubled over last year, the Chronicle survey showed.

Coleman and Skorton were the third and fourth consecutive U of I presidents lured to prestigious and higher-paying schools. James Freedman left in 1987 to became Dartmouth College's president; Hunter Rawlings left in 1995 when he also became Cornell's president.

The situation has prompted the Iowa Board of Regents to study how presidents' salaries compare with those at similar institutions. The regents in August voted to increase Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy's salary by 5 percent for 2006-07.

Geoffroy's total compensation is now $441,082, according to the Chronicle survey. That includes a $323,316 base salary from public money, $20,000 in salary from private money, $75,000 deferred compensation and $22,766 retirement pay. The total does not include the house provided by the state and the automobile provided by private sources.

Meanwhile, Gary Fethke is serving as interim president of the University of Iowa and is receiving $324,050 this year, which includes $22,000 in retirement pay. He is not provided with an automobile or house.

The University of Northern Iowa was not included in the Chronicle survey of 183 public institutions, 670 private colleges, 114 specialized institutions and 33 major higher-education associations.

However, Register records show that Benjamin Allen is earning $275,000 in his first year at UNI. Allen replaced former UNI President Robert Koob, who retired in May after 11 years.

Grinnell College President Russell Osgood once again earned the top salary among private university presidents, earning $512,445 in total compensation in 2004-05, the most recent data available for private universities.

Salaries of former Iowa presidents

AT IOWA STATE: Paid $227,000 in 2000.
CURRENTLY: Base salary of $406,950, total compensation of $880,950.


AT IOWA: Paid $234,746 in 2001-02.
CURRENTLY: Base salary of $516,501, total compensation of $742,148.


AT IOWA: Paid $302,050 in 2005-06.
CURRENTLY: Base salary of $675,000.