TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - One thing is sure about the contract being
negotiated for Mississippi State University's new president: It
will not be more than the compensation package for the University
of Mississippi's chancellor.
That's a promise from Amy Whitten of Oxford, president of the
state Board of Institutions of Higher Learning.
Currently, MSU and Ole Miss pay their top officials the same -
$220,500 in public funds and $208,500 from private sources.
They also each get a state car, a house and annual retirement
pay for a total package of $446,775 a year.
For a state that usually finds itself at the bottom of national
lists, in this instance, they're a notch above the median salary
for public research universities.
And that's about where they're going to stay for a while,
predicts Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, a member of the House
"If there's any money for higher education this year," Holland
said, "it's going to go for decreasing tuition, not executive
In the wake of a souring national economy, university executive
compensation is drawing increased scrutiny, The Chronicle for
Higher Education's reports.
According to The Chronicle's latest survey, median pay and
benefits rose 7.6 percent in 2007-08, to $427,400, for the leaders
of 184 public research universities.
Fifty-nine presidents of public universities made more than
$500,000 in salary and benefits during the 2007-08 academic year,
more than double the number who broke the half-million mark three
years earlier, CHE showed.
Topping the list is Ohio State University's E. Gordon Gee, who
left an even sweeter deal at private Vanderbilt University in 2007.
For the 2008 academic year, he's drawing $1.3 million, including a
$310,000 bonus announced this month.
Only three private college leaders made more in 2007, the most
recent year with data: presidents at Suffolk University ($2.8
million), Northwestern University ($1.7 million) and Columbia
University ($1.4 million).
In Mississippi, the compensation for most of the eight public
university presidents falls far short of the national median.
Just a few weeks before Keenum was hired for MSU, IHL chose
Donna Oliver to lead Mississippi Valley State University at Itta
Bena. IHL records show her four-year contract is for $192,938
By comparison, University of Southern Mississippi's Martha
Saunders receives a $363,275 package, followed by Jackson State's
Ronald Mason at $270,500 and Delta State's John Hilpert at
Each of the eight also gets a car and a house with the deal.
Richard D. Cotton, a Washington lawyer who negotiates
compensation packages within higher education, says it's in the
best interest of institutions to invest in state university
"The best buy a university makes - the best single investment
it makes - is in its president," he told the Chronicle.
What is clear is that regional institutions competing for talent
in a nationwide pool are finding it hard to keep up.
And competition also will increase with anticipated retirements
soon from the many university presidents age 61 or older, according
to a spring 2008 report by the American Council on Education and
the College and University Professional Association for Human
"If half of these individuals chose to retire in the next five
years," their report said, "one quarter of college presidencies
will become vacant."