Being president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute paid more than 15 times as much as being president of the United States in 2012, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education's latest pay survey. Shirley Ann Jackson's total compensation added up to $7,143,312 for the year, millions more than John L. Lahey of Quinnipiac University, who came in second place with $3,389,917. Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania and Charles R. Middleton of Roosevelt University came in third and fourth, with $2,473,952 and $1,762,956, respectively. Some 36 of the 537 presidents in the survey earned more than $1 million in 2012, but the median was around $400,000—the same amount the president of the US makes.
In calculating its rankings, the Chronicle counted deferred compensation the year it was paid. The chairman of Rensselaer's board of trustees tells the New York Times that the former chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission received $945,000 base pay, but most of her 2012 compensation came from a $5.9 million retention incentive. "The deferred compensation was provided so that we would be able to keep the president involved," he says. "It vested only after 10 years, so if she'd left, she would have lost it. She's worth what we paid, because she has done the job magnificently and taken the university to a different level."