With a $600,000 annual salary, LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander ranks in the top 10 percent of public university presidents in the nation in base pay.
The Chronicle of Higher Education released its annual national report on college presidents’ pay on Sunday. According to the Chronicle’s analysis, the typical public college president earned about $428,000 in fiscal 2014 — nearly 7 percent more than the previous year.
Presidents made, on average, nearly 3.8 times more than their average full-time professors, the Chronicle found.
The Chronicle’s analysis included all doctorate-granting public universities and all state college and university systems with at least three campuses and 50,000 students.
According to the data, Alexander was by far the highest-paid public higher-education leader in Louisiana. University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley earned $375,000. University of Louisiana at Lafayette President Joseph Savoie and Louisiana Tech University President Leslie K. Guice each earned $350,000, and University of New Orleans President Peter J. Fos earned $325,000.
According to his contract, $425,000 of Alexander’s salary comes from the university, while the rest is paid by the university’s fundraising foundations.
Alexander is about to enter his third year at LSU, and he has received rave reviews from the board that oversees Louisiana’s flagship university system.
“Dr. Alexander is doing an incredible job on behalf of LSU. He has exceeded the board’s expectations with his decisive leadership and his ability to successfully advance the priorities of LSU,” said LSU Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Ann Duplessis.
She defended Alexander’s salary as being in line with the scope of his job. He’s the first person to permanently hold the dual roles of system president and Baton Rouge campus chancellor. She also noted the system serves about 44,000 students.
“Combining the roles of president and chancellor has actually saved the university more than $350,000 in salary expenditures annually,” Duplessis said. “His role ranges from administrator and CEO to fundraiser, educator and higher education expert, and he has led LSU to many successes in his first two years as president and chancellor.”
Last fall, the LSU board unanimously agreed to extend Alexander’s contract through 2019, offering up glowing reviews for his first year on the job.
“Dr. Alexander has done so much work and really never stopped moving since we hired him,” Duplessis said at the time. “It’s important that we keep him around for a long time.”
Since then, Alexander has emerged as a key voice in the fight against potentially catastrophic cuts to higher education funding at the State Capitol this session.
Last week, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions about college access, and he has written widely published opinion pieces on the state of higher education.
The Chronicle analysis found that Alexander’s base pay puts him in the 93rd percentile of public university presidents — the high end.
But a look at Alexander’s peers — leaders of similar institutions, based on size, academic performance and expenses — shows that many of them qualify for bonuses and other pay that often drives their compensation much higher. Alexander’s contract provides no such bonus opportunities.
Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, for example, received base pay of $520,000, but bonuses pushed her compensation to $645,000.
University of Alabama System President Robert E. Whit earned a base pay of $640,000, but bonuses drove his pay to $745,000 last year.
The highest-paid president — without counting large payouts when administrators have left — was Ohio State University President Joseph A. Alutto, who earned a base salary of $634,572 but made enough in bonuses to boost his total salary last year to $996,169.