SJT among highest-paid college presidents

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was one of 27 private university presidents to make more than $500,000 two years ago, according to a report released Monday by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Trachtenberg’s total compensation, which includes his salary and medical benefits, was $571,764 for the fiscal year 2002, according to the report. He received about $501,000 in 2001. Trachtenberg also lives rent-free in a University-owned mansion near Embassy Row, valued at $2 million, according to D.C. Tax and Revenue records.

Salaries for the fiscal year 2003, which ended last month, were unavailable because private universities are not required to file tax returns until May, Chronicle officials said.

While declining to discuss his current salary, Trachtenberg said his pay is comparable to other university presidents’ and that GW-hired outside analysts look at his salary to make sure it’s “not too hot and not too cold.”

“My interest in this is largely to make sure that I’m not completely out of line with my peers,” Trachtenberg said.

Trachtenberg’s total compensation in 2002 exceeded the median income for private university presidents by about $185,000. He is the second highest paid president of a private or public university in D.C., trailing American University President Benjamin Ladner by $50,000.

Trachtenberg, who is marking his 16th year at GW, joined 26 other presidents in making more than $500,000, but is well behind top earner Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who earned a salary of $891,400.

Julianne Basinger, a Chronicle assistant editor who oversaw the report’s compilation, said the highest-paid presidents will soon be making $1 million.

Basinger said the steady increase in presidents’ salaries shows no sign of ebbing, and noted that presidents also receive money by serving on the boards of corporations.

Jackson, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was paid more than $550,000 for serving on the boards of AT&T Corporation, FedEx Corporation and Public Service Enterprise Group, Inc.

Trachtenberg said he receives money from serving on the board of Riggs Bank, but would not disclose specific figures.

Asked about the prospect of his salary increasing in light of the freeze on faculty raises, Trachtenberg said raises for administrators, including himself, have been postponed for a year to help cope with a budget crunch.

When deciding whether to give Trachtenberg a pay raise, the University’s Board of Trustees considers his relationship with students, faculty, administrators and the community, among other things, said Ambassador Charles Manatt, the Board’s chairman.

Phil Amsterdam, another Board member, said Trachtenberg is underpaid and would make millions of dollars if he worked in the private sector.

“He took this school from being a sleeping giant to being the 51st state in the nation,” said Amsterdam, referring to GW’s rank in the U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges issue.

Asked whether a president’s pay should be comparable to his university’s ranking in the magazine, Trachtenberg said, “I could make a case that it should be the inverse…surely it is easier to run Harvard (with its 20 billion dollar endowment) than it is to run GW.”

-Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.

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