The New York Times has an article picking up on the Chronicle of Higher Education's annual survey of pay of the presidents of private colleges and universities. No. 1 for the survey, which covered the year 2013, was the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger. Says the Times: "Mr. Bollinger's compensation totaled $4.6 million, which the university said included $1.17 million in base pay, an incentive payment of $940,000, use of a university residence, and other deferred compensation." The president of Yeshiva University in New York, Richard Joel, reported annual compensation of $2.5 million. Says the Times: "Yeshiva University said Mr. Joel's compensation in 2013 was because of a one-time payment that covered six years of deferred compensation. Since then, Mr. Joel requested that his compensation be reduced by $100,000 in 2014, and reduced by an additional $50,000 this year, the university said."
The Times buries this news on an inside page under the attention-deadening headline "Salaries of Private College Presidents Continue to Rise, Chronicle Survey Finds." (At the New York Sun, we had a rule against using the word "continue" in headlines, a rule so strict that if upon reflection "continue" was the most appropriate verb, the headline wasn't just to be rewritten, but the entire story to be spiked.)
In general I'm in favor of market-based compensation set by directors as opposed to by the government. These are complex, large institutions that require considerable skills to run. Even so, I am struck by the lack of outcry. Maybe it is because Bollinger's institution, Columbia, awards the Pulitzer Prizes that are hugely influential in determining the pay and career trajectories of journalists. Or maybe that has nothing to do with it. But given the attention devoted by the Times business section and editorial page, as well as by left-leaning politicians and advocacy groups, to private, for-profit executive pay and performance, you'd think that these compensation figures at institutions supported by taxpayer-subsidized student loans, Pell Grants, scientific research funds, Medicare and Medicaid payments, and by tuition-paying parents and alumni donors, would generate more scrutiny.