Yale President Richard Levin was the 10th-highest-paid private university president for the 2003 fiscal year, earning $695,025, according to a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education released this week.
According to the study, William Brody, the president of the Johns Hopkins University, received the highest compensation among private university presidents, earning $897,786 for the 2003 fiscal year. Earning $893,213, former University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin, a former Yale provost, was the second-highest-paid private university president and the only other leader of an Ivy League institution to rank among the top 10, the study found. Harvard University President Lawrence Summers earned $529,397.
Levin’s current salary is a 6.2-percent increase from his 2002 fiscal year compensation of $654,452. Levin’s compensation increased by 6.9 percent during the previous year and has risen 55 percent since fiscal year 1997, when he earned $447,265.
Levin’s salary is determined by the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest decision-making body, which acts on the recommendation of the compensation committee. Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Roland Betts ’68 and members Leonard Baker ’64 and Janet Yellen ’71 sit on this year’s compensation committee.
Baker said Corporation members determined Levin’s compensation by comparing the salaries of other university presidents. The Corporation examined the salaries of university presidents with responsibilities comparable to Levin’s while also considering their own evaluations of his work at Yale, he said.
The steady increases in Levin’s salary reflect the Corporation’s satisfaction with his performance, Baker said.
“I think the Corporation thinks that he has been doing an outstanding job,” Baker said. “I think you just have to look at how the University’s been doing over the period of his tenure. The increases reflect that.”
The Chronicle found that since 2000, the number of presidents at private universities earning more than $500,000 annually has increased from about a dozen to 42.
Julianne Basinger, the Chronicle journalist who reported the study’s findings, said the increased salaries for university presidents are a result of high demand for qualified university administrators. She said most universities decided to raise presidents’ salaries after seeing increases in presidents’ salaries at peer institutions.
“There is a belief in the academy that there is a shortage of qualified people to do this job, so boards are more willing to increase benefits to retain those people who they see as strong leaders,” Basinger said.
Yale historian and professor emeritus Gaddis Smith said over the past 25 years, the salaries of university presidents have increased steadily relative to the compensation of university professors. A generation ago, a Yale president would probably only earn about twice as much as a full professor, he said. Full professors at Yale earned an average of $138,800 last year, less than one fifth of Levin’s pay.
Smith said he thinks the steady increases in the salaries of university presidents such as Levin reflect the position’s changing role. He said Yale’s operating budget is many times what it was in previous generations even after inflation is accounted for.
“It doesn’t particularly worry me,” Smith said. “The justification is that it’s much, much more difficult to be president of a complicated university than it was 30 years ago.”
Levin could not be reached for comment Monday.