Million-dollar job: Public college president

E. Gordon Gee in 2009.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

At a time when the cost of college is an increasing worry for many families, running a public college is becoming a more lucrative job.

Nine public-college presidents earned more than $1 million a year in total compensation in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, a new analysis from The Chronicle of Higher Education finds.

That's up from four in 2011-2012 and three in 2010-2011.

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The analysis of presidents at more than 200 public universities and systems found that most public college presidents were far from the million-dollar mark. The median total compensation for the 2012-2013 year was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

The highest-paid college president was E. Gordon Gee, former president of Ohio State University. He had total compensation of more than $6 million while at Ohio State, the report found, although much of that was due to deferred compensation and severance pay.

Gee's base salary and bonus alone totaled nearly $1.2 million, according to the Chronicle.

A representative of Ohio State declined to comment.

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Gee, 70, left the Ohio State in June 2013 and is currently president of West Virginia University, a position he previously held in the mid-1980s. His current compensation wasn't included in the Chronicle's report because it came after the period reviewed.

In a statement emailed by West Virginia University, Gee said, "I don't work as a university president for the salary. Those are set by boards. My service as a university president is truly a calling and in the case of West Virginia University, it is a way of paying forward for the opportunities I was provided as a young president at the age of 36."

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The report comes as many families are grappling with big increases in public school tuition rates. According to the College Board, tuition and fees at public, four-year universities have risen an average of 27 percent in the past five years, to $8,893 in the 2013-2014 academic year.

It's more common for presidents of private universities to receive $1 million in compensation, or more. The Chronicle said that in the 2011 calendar year, the most recent year for which data is available, 42 private-college presidents topped the $1 million mark.