Investigator Exclusive: Big money men on campus

1:03 PM, May 5, 2010   |    comments
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Gee was asked if he would support a special master to review the pay packages of presidents of public universities which receive federal dollars.

"No, I don't think that's necessary. University presidents are well within the bounds of what they should be paid, " Gee told The Investigator Tom Meyer.

Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, welcomed a pay czar that would be similar to the one the Obama administration appointed to oversee the pay of executives at U.S. companies receiving taxpayer bailouts.

Meyer  raised the question of a higher education pay czar as he examined the contracts of the presidents at Ohio's five largest public universities.

Gee's pay package includes a base salary of $802,000.

Meyer asked him why he thinks he should be paid twice that of President Barack Obama.

"Well, I don't think that I should be. I think he's underpaid and I think it's unfortuate we don't pay our president more, " Gee said. 

The bow-tie Buckeye was recently named one of Time magazine's best 10 best presidents in the country. 

"I believe in scrutiny all the time. I believe in high performance.  If I don't perform, then I'll be pumping gas," Gee said.

Gee tops the list of university CEO's. Here are the base salaries only:

  • Dr Gordon Gee              Ohio State          $802,000
  • Dr. Gregory Williams      U of Cincinnati    $410,000
  • Dr. Lloyd Jacobs            U of Toledo         $392,700
  • Dr. Luis Proenza           U of Akron           $385,000
  • Dr. Lester Lefton          Kent state           $350,000

In addition to their base salaries, the presidents receive deferred compensation, bonuses, and retirement benefits that give the four lowest paid presidents pay packages totaling at least $1 million.

In Gee's case, it's around $2 million.

Four of the five presidents live in homes provided by the university, while the president at Kent State University receives $50,000 a year to pay for his mortgatge and property taxes and another $15,000 for utilities and maintenance.

The universities pay for their memberships into prestigious private clubs or country clubs. The presidents are also given new cars at the university's expense.

Proenza, at The University of Akron, recently received a $30,000 -- or nearly 9 percent -- raise at a time when tuition next semester jumped 3.5 percent, or the maximum allowed under state law. 

"The rate of return on investment that we create for our institutions is phenomenal," Proenza said.

Jacobs thinks he's underpaid. When pressed about his lucrative pay package, he told Meyer "What I have to do with what I earn is between me and my Maker."

Meyer asked if his Maker thinks it would be a good idea to give back some of his bonus to students. "Well, I'm not sure," Jacobs said.

Some students believe the pay packages of university presidents are over the top.

"It's an educational institution, not a big company," David Seay said. The Kent State student added, "Education is something you do for love, and not something you do for cash."

OSU student Greg Wladecki, of Avon Lake, supported the pay of Gee.

"He's the face of the university. He makes people come here for a lot of intangible reasons," Wladecki said.

Gee returned his most recent bonus of $200,000. He's undecided what he'll do with his next bonus, assuming he receives one.

Other presidents also gave back portions of their bonuses, including Lefton, who donated more than $11,300 to a student scholarship fund at kent State.

Still, a number of students thought their pay was excessive, especially at a time when tuition at many campuses across Ohio is going back up again.

"Ridiculous. Way too much money. I'm glad you guys are asking us about it because I didn't think anyone was paying attention, " said Bill Casale, a senior at Kent State. 

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