Among the presidents of 185 public colleges included in the survey, Spanier trailed only the presidents of Ohio State University, University of Washington, University of Texas system, and University of Central Florida.
Highly paid college presidents in states with dire budget problems, like Pennsylvania, "walk a difficult political tightrope," the higher education journal said. "They must at once argue that their state budgets have been cut to the bone and need to be restored, while at the same time acknowledging their rarefied personal financial circumstances in states where layoffs, program closures, and pay reductions have been all too common."
Bill Mahon, vice president for university relations for Penn State, said Spanier's "compensation is set by the university's Board of Trustees with advice from a consultant familiar with national executive compensation." Mahon noted that "our current difficult financial outlook occurred only four weeks ago," with the release of Corbett's proposed budget, which called for cutting annual state funding for Penn State roughly in half, to $165.1 million.
Penn State maintains a budget of roughly $4 billion a year. The university had sought state support of about $364 million for the fiscal year which begins July 1.
"President Spanier is president of one of the largest schools in the nation and is president over 24 different campuses," Mahon said. "Enrollment has grown by 14,000 students over the past ten years and other key indicators of his performance have been similarly strong."
Mahon said Spanier's salary was frozen last year, along with the pay of other university employees, "and he will share in the freeze announced for this summer, as well."
Spanier and his wife have donated over a million dollars to Penn State, Mahon said.
Spanier told legislators last month that Corbett's proposed cut in state funding "could fundamentally change Penn State and our sister institutions in the state and have major negative impacts" for Pennsylvania citizens.
He said the budget proposal will force the university to "put everything on the table."
The Chronicle of Higher Education report said that "as more college employees are forced to take pay cuts, some presidents have taken steps to demonstrate that they're sharing in the sacrifice."
It cited Ohio State's E. Gordon Gee, the highest paid public university president, who donated his $296,786 bonus to pay for scholarship funds and other university efforts, University of Missouri president Gary Forsee, who declined a $100,000 performance bonus, Washington State University president Elson Floyd, who took a $100,000 salary cut, and chief executives in the university of California system, whose salaries were reduced by 10 percent.
The report said the median "total cost of employment" for 185 public college presidents in 2009-10 was $440,487. That measured the amount spent by the institution and the state to employ the president and included base pay, bonuses, deferred compensation, retirement pay and, in many cases, housing and car allowances.
Temple University president Ann Weaver Hart had a total cost of employment of $707,947 for the period, including base pay of $535,903 and a $70,000 bonus, the report said.
In New Jersey, Richard L. McCormick, president of the Rutgers University system, had a total cost of employment of $593,800, including a base pay of $550,000, according to the report.
In Delaware, Patrick T. Harker, president of the University of Delaware, had a total cost of employment of $726,307. Harker ranked seventh among public college presidents in total compensation, with a base salary of $598,682 and a $100,000 bonus, the Chronicle said.
David Brond, vice president for communications and marketing at the University of Delaware, said Harker's pay was a recognition of "his performance since 2007," when he came to the university.
Brond cited improving academic credentials for incoming freshmen, growth in fund-raising, extensive construction, and successful partnerships with local, state, and global organizations.
The report is available online at: http://chronicle.com/presidentialpay.
Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org.