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Presidents at Public Universities Make Millions as Tuition Soars

Daily Ticker

College costs have been rising nearly 5% a year for the past 10 years—more than double the rate of inflation. The annual cost for a four-year public college or university is now almost $9,000 a year for in-state residents and $22,000 for out-of-state residents, according to the College Board. Private colleges charge two or three times as much.

All these schools face rising costs for health insurance, technology, faculty and infrastructure but public institutions also suffer from a decline in state and local government financing.

Still, that doesn’t seem to have hurt the paychecks of the presidents of public universities. Their median pay packages jumped 5% to $441,392 for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and a growing number of those presidents took in more than $1 million, according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The millionaires club include:

  • Former Pennsylvania State University President Graham Spanier, who was fired as a result of a sex abuse scandal. His total compensation: $2.9 million.
  • Auburn (AL) University President Jay Gogue: $2.54 million
  • Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee: $1.9 million
  • Former George Mason (VA) President Alan Merten: $1.87 million

Are these academics paid too much at a time when students not only are paying more for college but graduating without a job or at least a good-paying one?

“It feels like a big disconnect,” says Michael Santoli, senior columnist for Yahoo! Finance. “I don’t know if this should be a focal point for why college costs are out of whack….but probably, along with health insurance, a big driver for why costs go up,” says Santoli, about the rising pay for public college presidents.

Related: Only 150 of 3500 U.S. Colleges are Worth the Investment: Former Secretary of Education

Underlying higher college costs is a “complete insensitivity to price,” says Santoli.

On the demand side: “No one is turning down the top universities because they can’t quite afford it,” says Santoli. On the supply side: these institutions “can’t increase the number of customers…they enroll the same number every year.”

That leaves price as their only lever, says Santoli.

But is the higher cost worth it?

“A lot of people would say the return on your investment is well worth it,” says The Daily Ticker’s Aaron Task. “ The unemployment rate for college grads today is about 4%. If you don’t have a college degree it’s a lot higher than that January), but for recent grads the unemployment rate is “unfrighteningly high.”

According to the U.S. Labor Dept. the unemployment rate for those 25 years or older with a four-year college degree was 3.9% in April; for high school graduates it was 7.4%.

But, according to the latest data from the BLS, recent college graduates who earned a bachelor’s degree had a 13.5% jobless rate.

Despite modest improvement since the most recent peak in October 2009, the unemployment rates of recent college graduates remained above the rates prior to the 2007–2009 recession. And the median weekly earnings of college-educated, full-time workers have dipped, to $1,141 after adjusting for inflation in 2012, from $1,163 in 2007.

The Daily Ticker Presents: Generation I.O.U.

Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! News and The Daily Ticker are teaming up to produce a special live streaming event on May 23 at 12:30 pm ET around the rising cost of college.

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