March 27, 2001

Cornell Scholars to Release Study of Presidential Salaries

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In a time when many Ivy League universities are welcoming new leaders to guide them into the 21st Century, Prof. Ronald G. Ehrenberg, industrial and labor relations and economics, Julia Epifantseva grad and Prof. John Cheslock, education, University of Arizona examined the salary increases of presidents at private universities.

The Review of Higher Education will publish their paper, titled “Paying Our Presidents: What Do Trustees Value?” later this year.

“Very little is known about the compensation structure faced by American college and university presidents,” the study stated.

Ehrenberg, Epifantseva and Cheslock conducted the study across the nation’s private universities, since information on the salaries of public universities is not available.

“We looked at four years of data and tried to see what trustees take into account [when setting presidents’ salaries],” Epifantseva said.

The study used four years’ worth of data, from 1992-93 until 1997-98, reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The data included the salaries of presidents at 480 private universities.

“We merged that data with information from a lot of different sources,” Ehrenberg said.

Those sources included the College Board’s report of SAT and ACT scores for incoming freshmen, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s report on whether a president was a member of the clergy, data from enrollment surveys, as well as other factors.

The three researchers also considered “information on the character of the presidents of institutions,” Ehrenberg said.

“You would expect certain things,” Epifantseva said.

For example, “if freshmen scores go up, that means that the quality level is perceived to be higher