Women and Minority Presidents of Community Colleges Outearn Their Peers

November 13, 2012

Community-college presidents earned a median base salary of $167,000 in 2012, according to a study being released on Tuesday. Bucking trends in the pay of top officials in most other professions, women, on average, earned higher base salaries than did men at the helms of two-year institutions, the study found, and Hispanic and black presidents earned more than their white counterparts.

A report on the study, "Compensation and Benefits of Community College CEOs: 2012"—conducted by the American Association of Community Colleges—says community-college presidents' base salaries have risen 4.1 to 6.2 percent, depending on the type of institution, over the last six years. The median total compensation, which includes base salary plus other pay for fulfilling presidential duties, was $177,462.

The most recent Chronicle analysis of pay for four-year public-college presidents found that their median total compensation was $421,395 in 2010-11. For four-year private-college presidents, the median total compensation was $385,909 for 2009, according to the latest Chronicle analysis.

The association used a survey to question the leaders of community colleges about their compensation and benefits, along with other aspects of their jobs, such as tenure. The online survey, which was conducted over four weeks last spring, had a response rate of 39 percent, with a total of 370 presidents returning the survey. It did not include chief executives of multicollege districts.

A number of factors influenced the level of compensation of community-college leaders, the study found, including the institution's location, its enrollment, and its type, such as whether it is a single-campus college or a college in a multicampus district.

Hispanic presidents reported the highest median base salary of any ethnic group, at $201,553, the study found. Black presidents had a median base salary of $190,000, and white presidents had a median base salary of $167,200.

Further analysis is needed to determine how ethnicity plays a role in community-college presidents' salary, the report says. But it does note that black and Hispanic presidents were more likely than their white counterparts to work at large colleges and in urban areas, and both factors are associated with institutions that pay higher salaries.

Female leaders of community colleges, meanwhile, reported a median base salary of $170,000, compared with a median base salary of $167,000 for male presidents. Male presidents, though, had a slightly higher average total cash compensation than their female counterparts. But women's total cash compensation did rise relative to men's, from 97 percent in 2006 to 98.2 percent in 2012, according to the survey.

Beyond base salaries and total compensation, most presidents reported receiving some form of allowance. Sixty-six percent said they received a college-provided car or car allowance, 58 percent said they received allowances for professional club dues, and 32 percent said they received college-provided housing or a housing allowance. Only 15 percent reported that their spouse or partner also received allowances.

The study suggests the coming years will see a high turnover rate among community-college leaders, with about three-quarters of survey respondents saying that they planned to retire within the next decade. Forty-three percent of respondents—whose median age was 60—said they planned to leave in the next five years.