GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was the highest paid university president in the D.C. area in 2003, with a compensation of $641,364, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
A report released by the college and university research newspaper last week said Trachtenberg was one of just 12 other private university executives nationwide who earned at least $600,000.
The latest data represents the second year in a row that GW’s president has received a $70,000 pay increase; Trachtenberg earned $571,764 in 2002 and $501,000 in 2001. He also lives rent-free in a University-owned townhouse valued at $2 million, according to D.C. tax records.
Chronicle officials were unable to release 2004 pay rates because universities do not have to file their 2004 taxes until next year.
While declining to discuss his current earnings, Trachtenberg said his compensation is “normative” in comparison to presidential salaries at similar institutions. He said the GW Board of Trustees, which controls Trachtenberg’s annual pay increase, hires outside analysts to make sure his wage is reasonable.
“I think a university president needs to be paid what a university president needs to be paid,” said Trachtenberg, who added that his salary is determined based on the quality of GW’s management, the number of freshman applications and the value of the University’s endowment.
Although he was one of only 13 presidents to exceed the $600,000 mark, Trachtenberg’s salary still falls short of several top 10 earners, most notably that of John Hopkins University President William R. Brody, whose $897,786 income was the highest in the nation.
Julianne Basinger, a Chronicle staff writer who oversaw the report’s compilation, said the ever-increasing salaries of private University presidents reflect the complexity of their institutions.
“These are complicated institutions to run,” she said, “And boards (of trustees) are saying that in these hard economic times it is important to have a strong leader to raise a lot of money.”
According to the report, university presidents will soon be earning upwards of a million dollars, with several presidents already nearing that amount by serving on the boards of several corporations.
Trachtenberg, who gets $30,000 for serving on the board of the embattled Riggs Bank, said he gave more money back to the university last year than he received from the institution.
Raymond Cotton, a former GW professor and vice president of the D.C. consulting firm ML Strategies, said that given the difficulties of Trachtenberg’s job and the services he has performed for GW, he should be making a higher salary.
“What you’re talking about here is the CEO of a billion-dollar-a-year corporation,” he said. “If you look around the county to see what the CEO of a billion dollar corporation is making, it’s a lot more than $600,000 a year.”