Updated: May 24, 2023

Is Performance-Based Pay Necessary for College Presidents?

A college president's earning should be tied to their student's success rate to ensure they are held accountable for their performance.
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College presidents earn a median salary of $250,442. Did you know that their base salary only accounts for a portion of their earnings, and that many earn incentive pay that sometimes doubles their pay?

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On top of this, many are rewarded a salary increase simply for completing their duties, rather than performance -- which would make better sense. Raises should also be based in this same manner and there should be a limit of how much incentive pay they can earn. Because this prestigious position already earns a considerable amount, there is no reason why they should earn more than double their base pay as an incentive, especially when tuition and the cost of a college education is on the rise.

The Chronicle of Higher Education released figures showing the earnings from the top paid college presidents in the United States. At private universities, presidents made well over a million dollars in 2011.

Benefits of tying performance to wage

When a college president's pay is tied to the success of students, they will have far more incentive to ensure that the quality of education at their respective institution is up to par with expectations from students, faculty, and parents.

A big advocate for trying presidential raises to performance is John O'Donnell, the Massachusetts Bay Community College President. "College presidents need to be more accountable," said O'Donnell.

How presidents can increase student success after college

There are a variety of methods college presidents can implement on their campus in order to increase student success. The first would be to hold more job fairs, especially after students graduate. I remember seeing more college fairs pop up as my senior year of college came to a close; the only problem was that some of them conflicted with my class schedule, and that made it hard to view the positions being offered by local recruiters.

Presidents should also look to help students figure out ways to increase their potential to land an entry level position in their respective field. At the end of a college senior's career at a university, a survey could be given out to gauge how well prepared students feel about landing a job. A survey can serve to help provide an indication in regards to how well a president is performing.

More attention to detail is also ideal. What is even more in demand is someone that actually cares about the intellectual and personal development of all the students under their lead. Presidents should focus on educational standards and how well students are prepared to succeed in life and reach their goals, as opposed to earning big incentives for doing a "good" job.

Incentive pay should not exceed a percentage of their base pay. That would help institutions of higher learning hire presidents that actually care about educational standards above all else.

Let the statistics speak for themselves

The Bureau of Labor statistics conducts an annual study to determine the number of graduates that are able to find work after graduation. In a study released last April, the bureau revealed that the unemployment rate for college graduates between the age of 20 to 29 was at 12.6 percent. That is an alarmingly high number considering a college degree is supposed to significantly increase a person's chances at obtaining a job.

Employment is one thing, but finding work that relates to your major is another. While many students have found work after college, there are still many who have yet to find a position that relates to their field of study. Only 27 percent of graduates have a position in a field they actually studied. On top of the unemployment rate for college graduates being moderately high, many college graduates are most likely settling into jobs in order to secure some type of income.

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