Community Colleges

Community-College Chiefs Are Underpaid Relative to Their 4-Year Peers

January 03, 2010

Community-college presidents receive lower pay and poorer benefits than do their counterparts at four-year institutions, with an average salary of approximately $165,000, according to a new survey of executives at two-year institutions.

Yaffe & Company, a Baltimore-based consulting firm specializing in executive compensation and other board-governance services, conducted the survey in November. A full report on the survey is not being released publicly.

A total of 208 institutions in 42 states participated in the survey, with a majority from the East. Although the consulting firm received information from a couple of large systems and tribal colleges, there were insufficient data to report the information for just those sectors, so institutions of nearly 100,000 students and tribal colleges were not included in the report.

The survey found that the average age of community-college presidents was 58, they were predominantly male, and they had served, on average, for six years. Base annual salaries ranged from $88,250 to $321,823. The salaries varied widely, depending on the size of the institution's operating budget and its enrollment.

By contrast, the median pay for presidents of private four-year colleges in 2007-8, according to an annual survey published in November by The Chronicle, was $358,746. And for presidents of public four-year universities in 2007-8, the median figure was $427,400.

The Chronicle has also surveyed the compensation of community-college leaders. That latest report, which analyzed the 2007-8 pay packages of chiefs at 64 of the nation's largest two-year colleges, found a median total compensation of $278,000. Michael B. McCall, president of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, topped the list with $610,670.

Later this month, The Chronicle will publish the results of a new survey on the compensation of community-college leaders, featuring 2008-9 data. The report will include the employment contracts of those surveyed.

Of the presidents who responded to the Yaffe survey, 90 percent had contracts, of which 49 percent were renewed automatically. Those without "evergreen contracts" had deals with an average length of almost three years. Only 36 percent of presidents were eligible for a severance package.

With regard to retirement benefits, the survey found that only 35 percent of the presidents reported having a "deferred-compensation arrangement or a supplemental executive-retirement plan,"

Additionally, about 7 percent of presidents had the use of institution-owned housing, and 20 percent received a housing allowance. The numbers are much higher for car benefits, with about 38 percent receiving a car and 40 percent a car allowance.

About 35 percent of respondents earn some form of deferred compensation, a common staple of executive pay in higher education, with those contributions averaging 9.7 percent of the two-year leaders' base salaries.