Alex McHugh of National Review recently made an excellent point on this subject.

University Presidents Paid More than POTUS

A great number of Americans have not felt the benefits of the economic recovery, but in 2012, the number of private university presidents receiving over $1 million in compensation increased by one, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

For context, the President of the United States makes less than half that—$400,000.

Why should the CEO of a small institution receive a base salary greater than that of the President of the United States? This is an affront over which American taxpayers should be thoroughly riled. Though the report considered only private colleges—making it tempting to brush off their spendthrift ways as institutional, rather than public, problems—all of these schools are accredited and so receive taxpayer money in the form of federal student loans. Some receive so much that it would be reasonable to question their status as “private” entities. How do colleges and universities defend this spending?

The argument for so highly compensating college presidents (and other administrators) boils down to a concern about prestige. ACTA’s report Education or Reputation? A Look at America’s Top-Ranked Liberal Arts Colleges outlines the ways in which private liberal arts colleges chase reputation at the expense of student success. Wrapped up in this concern for name and notoriety is a desire to attract “big names” to executive positions with huge salaries.