- Some Minnesota legislators and education officials think the University of Minnesota's next president should be willing to earn far less than the $625,250 made annually by retiring President Eric Kaler, according to the Star Tribune.
- Advocates for the salary reduction say it will send a positive message to families facing rising tuition costs and to state lawmakers who are reluctant to increase college funding.
- Critics say the lower pay will leave the university out of the competition for a shrinking field of top higher education executives at a time when institutions need efficient, innovative leaders. Kaler's base salary ranked sixth among the 14 Big Ten institutions in 2017, according to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Chronicle's annual report on the salaries of higher education leaders shows a dozen public university and system presidents and chancellors made more than $1 million in total compensation for the 2016-17 academic year. The average pay was $560,000 for those who served all of 2016 and 2017 in the position.
The publicity such high salaries generate may have repercussions for institutions. In 2013, researchers at Boston University and the Georgetown University Law Center found that the universities with the 10 highest-paid leaders as reported by the Chronicle saw fundraising decline on average by between $2.8 million and $4.5 million in the first fiscal year following publication of the survey, and that those executives got smaller pay raises than their counterparts. While pay for other presidents at the 300-some institutions studied rose 14% on average, those who ranked in the Chronicle's top 10 saw their pay increase about 4% the following year.
Some critics of the recommendation that the University of Minnesota trim its president's salary say it might be difficult to find candidates, and there are indications that the pool of executives is shrinking.
More than half (54%) of college presidents said they expect to leave their position within five years, according to the 2017 American College President (ACP) Study by the American Council on Education (ACE) and TIAA Institute.
The average tenure has dropped about two years over the last decade to six years, the study found. The research also shows that the average age of presidents has risen to 61, almost 10 years older than the average in the mid-1980s. During that time, the number of college presidents under the age of 50 dropped dramatically from 42% to roughly 10%.
One-quarter of American Association of State Colleges and Universities member campuses have experienced a leadership change in recent years, according to Inside Higher Ed. Of the 81 top public research universities, 56 have seen a president leave in the previous five years, Governing reported in 2016.