Amid rising student loan debt, mounting interest rates, and shrinking campus resources, the number of college presidents with salaries over $1 million is rising.
42 college presidents earned $1 million or more in 2011, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s review of Internal Revenue Service tax data. That was an increase over 2010, when there were 36 million-dollar college presidents. Robert Zimmer, President of the University of Chicago received the highest amount of money — $3,358,723. Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania, the highest-paid female president, made $2,091,764. More than one hundred others made upwards of $500,000, and median compensation rose slightly to $410,523.
While college leaders rake in money, students are swimming in debt. The average college graduate in 2011 left school with $26,600 in debt, and 2012 saw that average jump to $29,000. The rise owes in part to rising tuition and fees, which spiked 72 percent over the last 10 years and 27 percent over the last five. The higher loan burden cripples students upon graduating. With total student loan debt reaching $1 trillion, students who borrow loans can expect to lose $4 trillion in future wealth. As of August this year, one-eighth of all borrowers, or 6.5 million people, were forced to default on their debt.
Campus resources are also suffering. In 2012, “national, state and local spending on higher education reached a 25-year low.” Services for “low-income and first-generation students” are increasingly slashed, in addition to work-study options. Institutions have lowered the number of available classes for students to take, and universities have lost much-needed funding for research. Job insecurity also threatens professors and renders them less accessible to students.