Ohio’s university presidents, top advisers won’t see pay cuts

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s university presidents and their senior advisers, who rank among the state’s highest-paid public employees, will not be asked by Gov. Ted Strickland to take the pay and benefits cuts he’s asking most state employees to take.

Led by Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, the highest-paid public university president in America, the 154 individuals at Ohio’s 14 four-year public institutions made a combined $35 million last year, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

Gee makes $775,008 a year before bonuses. The median salary for public university presidents in the state is $355,000, the data show.

Strickland seeks a 6 percent pay cut from unionized agency workers in the upcoming two-year budget. If such a cut were applied to all university presidents and their cabinets, it would amount to about $2.1 in million savings.

Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst says the governor’s budget plan targets only state agencies over which he has direct authority for the pay and benefits concessions — which includes his own office. Along with the pay cut, he has asked state workers to assume 10 percent of their health insurance premiums to make ends meet.

Daniel Bennett, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability & Productivity, advocates paring back university salaries and all but educational programs during hard times.

“Our view is that college presidents should be compensated for performance,” he said. “So if they’re doing a great job, then we don’t necessarily mind that they’re getting high pay. But there should be some objective measure of that, such as the job they do retaining students or their graduation rate.”

Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, said colleges and universities have to spend what is necessary to attract talented people.

“These are big places with, many times, hospitals and thousands of employees,” he said. “And generally, as compared to private sector jobs, the CEO is not overcompensated.”

Bennett said his center, founded on the heels of the 2006 report of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, discourages the operation of research hospitals, dormitories and student recreational facilities by universities, viewing such endeavors as pushing up the overall costs of college to students and taxpayers.

Data collected from all 14 four-year universities in Ohio show that 28 of the 154 administrators earn $300,000 or more per year. For 11, the figure includes a car allowance. The numbers don’t include benefits or bonuses.

University of Cincinnati President Nancy Zimpher is paid $418,789, the next highest salary under Gee’s.

The state’s four-year universities are: Ohio State, Ohio University, University of Akron, University of Toledo, Kent State, Bowling Green, Central State, Cleveland State, Miami University of Ohio, Cincinnati, Youngstown State, Wright State, Shawnee State and the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy.

The eight highest-paid central office university administrators in the state work at Ohio State, according to salary information provided to the AP by the institutions.

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