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December 5, 2011 at 9:48 AM

Private college presidents paid well

The president of one of the state’s small private colleges had the highest annual compensation package in 2009, and the president of the state’s largest private college had one of the smallest packages, according to an annual report released today by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle’s report shows that Ronald Thomas, president of the University of Puget Sound, had a total compensation package of $543,066 in 2009, making him the highest-paid private college president in the state. The Rev. Stephen Sundborg, president of Seattle University – the state’s largest private college in 2009 — made $314,000.

UPS had an enrollment of 2,879 in 2009, the third-smallest college listed in the report. Seattle University had an enrollment of 7,751.

(Seattle University officials pointed out that most of Sundborg’s salary is donated to the Society of Jesus; Seattle University is a Jesuit school. Sundborg, in return, lives on campus, where he is provided with food, board, job-related travel and other expenses. He draws a quarterly stipend of about $1,000.)

The report found that in 2009, the median total compensation among 519 presidents at colleges with budgets exceeding $50 million was $385,909. All of Washington’s seven colleges listed in the report had budgets of at least $90 million.

Nationally, the Chronicle found that private college salaries went up by about 2.2 percent over 2008. The median base salary increased by 2.8 percent, to $294,489.

After Thomas, the next-highest-paid private college president was Pacific Lutheran University’s Loren Anderson, who made $539,000.

Seattle Pacific University president Philip Eaton – who is retiring next year — made $421,000, and William Robinson, the former president of Whitworth, made $399,000 in 2009.

George Bridges, president of Whitman College, made $353,660. Thayne McCulloh, who was interim president of Gonzaga University at the time of the survey, made $278,489, the smallest amount.

The newspaper also found that most colleges spent a small percent of their budgets on their presidents, a median of 0.4 percent. That was generally true of Washington’s colleges as well, although Robinson, of Whitworth, was paid 0.5 percent, and Sundborg, of Seattle University, was paid 0.1 percent.

It’s difficult to compare public university presidents in this state to private college presidents, because the state’s universities are so much larger. But if you’re curious, here’s a story about how much University of Washington President Michael Young makes. And recently, Central Washington University gave its president, Jim Gaudino, a substantial retention incentive if he stays on the job for five more years — a decision that upset some students and faculty members.

To see the Chronicle’s full survey of private college presidential salaries, go to

Comments | More in Education | Topics: college, executive compensation, Seattle University


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