- Former University of the Cumberlands President James Taylor says the school is defaulting on a promise to pay an annual post-retirement payout of $400,000, and now Taylor has filed suit to recover those funds.
- Taylor served for 35 years as president, helping the campus to achieve new gains in enrollment and capital expansion.
- School officials are attempting a buyout, saying the annual payout was not officially approved, and would be an "irresponsible" spending of tuition and philanthropic gifts for little to no benefit to the university.
Taylor's request, and the board's agreement to the request in 2005, aren't a wholly unusual practice in higher education, where many schools look for top talent and to create compensation packages that can keep talent on campus. In some cases, like that of Miami-Dade College's Eduardo Padron, presidents are guaranteed lifetime health benefits. And when former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee left the institution with which he had become synonymous in 2013, he was paid over $6 million — more than $5 million of which was deferred compensation and severance for the retiring leader.
A new report from Inside Higher Ed shows presidential bonuses and compensation perks are increasing as schools look for new ways to attract and retain top presidential talent to the campus. A 2014 report from the Institute for Policy Studies found the 25 public universities with the highest paid leaders also saw student debt growth outpacing the average state school.
And while some may decry the upward trend line in a time in which college affordability concerns warrant congressional discussion, others argue that since presidents are responsible for the multiple elements of campus operations, and are the last line of accountability for the work of hundred of employees and the achievement of thousands of students, the need to attract a good one is worth the extra cost.