GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is the ninth highest paid university president in the nation, with salary and benefits totaling $473,233 for 1998-1999, according to the report of 1998-1999 presidential salaries by The Chronicle of Higher Education released last month.
Trachtenberg’s pay increased 17 percent from the $404,014 he received in 1997-1998 school year. His earnings increased 4.9 percent from 1996 to 1997.
Trachtenberg’s pay was almost $80,000 more than the average of $393,288 of presidents in the same university category. GW is ranked with other research universities that award 50 or more doctoral degrees a year and offer a full range of baccalaureate programs.
The highest paid president is Harry C. Payne of Williams College in Massachusetts, who earned $878,222 in 1998-1999.
The Chronicle reported concerns among academics that salaries cause colleges to act more like big corporations than institutions. However, many argue that the amount of money given to presidents is justified.
President Trachtenberg has done as much as, if not more than, the eight people above him on the list, said Gretchen King, director of GW’s media relations. We need to remain competitive with the other universities and this is the market value.
Trachtenberg said he does not decide his salary. The Board of Trustees do a study through an outside firm and research other comparable universities before determining the president’s salary.
It’s a different industry and a mistake to compare universities to corporations the same way it would be to compare the salaries to school teachers or government officials, Trachtenberg said.
The Chronicle also reported that GW basketball coach Tom Penders makes about $10,000 a year more than Trachtenberg.
I believe it is a reflection of American values, Trachtenberg said. It’s the marketplace. I don’t lose any sleep about it.
Former GW basketball coach Mike Jarvis earned $360,172 before he left for St. John’s University in 1998; $43,000 more than Trachtenberg earned the same year.
The report on president’s pay is conducted every year, said Kevin Carleton, director of public affairs for Boston University.
Trachtenberg served at BU for eight years as a vice president and academic dean.
The Board of Trustees must decide if it is willing to compete for a candidate, he said. Board members have to look at what similar schools are paying, performance, achievements and longevity. They must balance the president’s rate of success with the goals of the institution, Carleton said.
Besides attracting a good president, the trustees have to look at retention, Carleton said. The more visible and successful a president is, the more opportunities he will have to move to other schools or even corporations. When the average service at a university is five to seven years, the trustees have to make sure the pay is enough to make a president stay.
Some students at GW think the school’s president gets paid too much.
I think it’s excessive, said sophomore Jen Wheaton. To me, education is a pretty selfless field where professionals are trying to better people’s lives. I know a lot of teachers who do hands-on work that don’t make enough.
Wheaton said that if Trachtenberg is the ninth highest paid, GW should be ninth in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings, she said.
I think that’s in no way justified, sophomore Jordan Scott said. Our school has come a long way, but we are still a second tier school. Our classrooms don’t even have enough seats.
The amount of money sometimes does not end with salaries.
Many university presidents sit on boards of directors outside the university, said Dr. John Silber, president of Boston University.
President Carnesale of UCLA attends about 20 board meetings a year and makes $718,000 in addition to his university salary and benefits, Silber said.
Trachtenberg only sits on one board, for Riggs Bank.
Silber’s concern, however, is not the income from board positions, but university presidents’ time spent away from the university, he said.
A president’s salary is nothing compared to Oprah and Letterman and all these other mindless jokesters, Silber said. At least we hold a useful societal function.
Silber also says that the fact that basketball coaches can make more money than a president is wrong, but common.
The Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed 479 institutions. Its results are based on a federal tax return called the Form 990, which requires non-profit institutions to disclose how they compensate their top officials and five highest-paid employees. It does not include the money people might have received working as outside consultants or serving on outside boards.
Other top-earning presidents included University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin, New York University President L. Jay Oliva and John’s Hopkins University President William R. Brody.
Trachtenberg said he believes in adequate compensation for professors, deans and employees. He said he is not content with the compensation of the staff and said there is more work to be done in that area.
Top 10 President Salaries, 1998-99
1. Harry C. Payne, Williams College. $878,222
2. Judith Rodin, University of Pennsylvania. $655,557
3. L. Jay Oliva, New York University. $649,633
4. William R. Brody, Johns Hopkins University. $645,710
5. Joe B. Wyatt Vanderbilt University. $532,461
6. Richard C. Levin, Yale University. $525,687
7. George Rupp, Columbia University. $500,204
8. Malcom Gillis, Rice University. $497,691
9. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, George Washington University. $473,233
10. Harold T. Shapiro, Princeton University. $456,170
source: Chronicle of Higher Education