Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg received more than $700,000 in salary and benefits last year – the second-highest salary in the District and the 42nd-highest of private institutions in the nation for the 2005-2006 fiscal year – according to a Chronicle of Higher Education survey released this month.
The Chronicle analysis compiled the salaries of chief executives at 653 private colleges and 114 specialized institutions.
“GW tries very hard not to be the most generous, but (the Board of Trustees) doesn’t want to be the least generous,” Trachtenberg said. “They don’t want the president to feel unfairly treated, but they don’t want to seem irresponsible with tuition dollars.”
While the Board of Trustees determines the president’s salary, the members of the University’s highest governing board use an outside consultant to research what similar universities pay their presidents, Trachtenberg said. Based on the research, the board set a salary considered competitive, but not “at the head of the line,” the former University president said.
“(Deciding the University president’s salary) is pretty much data-driven,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s not whimsical, it’s not emotional. They look at the numbers and they come to a conclusion.”
The president’s salary is paid for by University revenue, which includes tuition, donations and other monetary sources.
“There is a compensation committee of the Board of Trustees which meets regularly throughout the year and reviews the performance and compensation of the president and senior officers of the institution,” said Lou Katz, GW executive vice president and treasurer.
GW also uses a salary survey with peer institutions in order to help gauge the president’s compensation, Katz said. Sixteen other private institutions participate in the survey.
The president’s salary is decided each fall. This year, the compensation was determined for the 2008 calendar year rather than the academic year.
University President Steven Knapp’s salary will not be released until the spring, Katz said.
“Depending on how you’re doing, how the institution is doing compared to the peer group – that goes into the decision of compensation,” he said.
Additionally, the president’s salary is influenced by his performance as the top administrator. Some of the goals that the president may address include fundraising, student and faculty quality, rankings and research.
“If you look at the performance of (Trachtenberg) in his tenure and the length of his tenure,” Katz said, “It’s well within the peer group.”
American was the only university in the District that paid its president more than GW.
Former American University President Benjamin Ladner received a severance payment of $950,000 as well as other deferred compensation payments that brought his total salary to more than $4 million, according to The Chronicle’s survey. Ladner resigned in October 2005 after he allegedly embezzled money from his university.
Although most of the top universities, including Yale, Columbia and Johns Hopkins universtieis, paid their presidents high salaries, not all paid more than GW paid its president.
Presidents at Georgetown, Brown and Princeton universities were paid less than Trachtenberg, but they took their positions in 2001. Georgetown President John DeGioia was paid about $100,000 less than Trachtenberg in 2005-2006. Princeton President Shirley Tilghman was paid approximately $50,000 less.
“The president receives the same benefits as other employees, including health coverage, life insurance and retirement,” said Bob Durkee, vice president and secretary at Princeton University. “While it is not technically a ‘benefit,’ she lives in a university-provided house which she uses for a broad range of official functions.”
Similar to GW, the Princeton president’s salary is determined annually by the compensation committee of the board of trustees, Durkee said in an e-mail.
In 2005-2006, Tilghman was paid $652,060 including benefits, according to The Chronicle. Brown University president Ruth Simmons’ total compensation package was $689,007 in the same year.
Eric Roper contributed to this report.