January 5, 2013

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: College Is the Key to Financial Success . . . if you’re a college president, that is.

According to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the 2011 fiscal year, 132 presidents of public colleges and universities made $344,000 or more — the income level that marks the divide between the bottom 99 percent and the top 1 percent. Private-college presidents raked in even more: 208 made $344,000 or more in 2010, with 36 of those making $1 million or more.

It’s no surprise that college presidents are receiving top dollar: More and more, a year’s college tuition is exceeding the annual salary that a student can expect to make in the first few years after graduation. (And that assumes the student can even snag a job requiring a college degree in this dismal economy.)

At New York City’s New School, for instance, then-president (and now failed Nebraska Senate candidate) Bob Kerrey made $3 million in 2010. Students entering the college this fall will pay a steep $38,000 in tuition. (And that’s before room and board.) It’s the same story at other colleges. At Washington University of St. Louis, where the tuition is now $44,000, chancellor Mark Stephen Wrighton made around $2.3 million. At Vanderbilt University (tuition: $42,000), chancellor Nicholas Zeppos made $2.2 million, while at Columbia University (tuition: $47,000), president Lee Bollinger made $1.9 million.

It’s generally less profitable to be the president of a public university, but many of their paychecks would still look pretty darn good to any member of the 99 percent.

Plus: “Why pick on these presidents? Well, for one thing, while the Occupy movement camped out on Wall Street, participants seemed driven in large part by frustration over onerous student loans. (If they had been upset over the mortgage crisis, their choice of locale would have made more sense.) . . . The Occupiers were right to notice that college is becoming a larger and larger financial burden for the middle class. It’s too bad they didn’t turn their focus to the members of the 1 percent who could really change that.”

They need to do some remedial reading.