Long Island University in Brookville in February.

Long Island University in Brookville in February. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Three current university presidents on Long Island earned more than $1 million in 2021 as the top administrators at their schools, according to the most recently available tax filings.

Leading with a compensation package of $1,127,642 is Long Island University’s Kimberly Cline, who was named president in 2013 to oversee the main campuses in Brooklyn and Brookville.

Adelphi University President Christine Riordan and New York Institute of Technology President Hank Foley also earned more than $1 million in 2021, documents show. 

The figures include base yearly salaries, along with other forms of compensation, such as bonuses and benefits. 


  • Three current university presidents on Long Island earned more than $1 million in 2021 as the top administrators at their schools, according to the most recently available tax filings.
  • Compensation for the other Long Island leaders of four-year schools ranges from nearly $300,000 to more than $700,000.
  • The average pay of college and university presidents at public and private institutions has soared over the years, with several top administrators across the nation making close to $1 million.

The average pay of college and university presidents at public and private institutions has soared over the years, with several top administrators across the nation making close to $1 million to run their schools. Compensation for the other Long Island leaders of four-year schools ranged from nearly $300,000 to nearly $700,000.

Experts say administrators in higher education nationwide also are receiving more perks, such as first-class travel and housing allowances.

Officials at Adelphi and NYIT declined to comment, but Long Island University Board chairman Eric Krasnoff said Cline has transformed LIU "into an acclaimed teaching and research institution since she joined as president."

She opened new schools such as the College of Science, the College of Veterinary Medicine, Roc Nation School of Music, Sports & Entertainment and the Roosevelt School, which offers studies in international relations, public policy, administration and leadership.

“Most significantly, Dr. Cline has maintained her pledge to cap tuition increases at no more than 2% — far lower than any college or university in the region,” he said.

The tax forms for Cline reported $989,888 in base pay, $10,356 in other reportable compensation and $127,398 in other nontaxable benefits.

Nontaxable benefits could include items such as educational assistance, health insurance, housing and other benefits, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The LIU tax filing showed Cline received a housing benefit of $83,946. Examples of other compensation could include amounts earned in a prior year or awards based on longevity, the IRS reported.

Richard Vedder, a professor of economics emeritus at Ohio University, said pay for university leaders has continued to spiral upward — even at schools not considered elite. Some universities that paid their presidents under $200,000 in the 1990s are now offering packages close to $1 million.

“Compare that with the pay of any ordinary American worker or college professor — the increases are not as great,” said Vedder, the former director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “The disparity or gap of what the average professor makes and what the university president earns has in general grown over the last generation.”

Fred Kowal, president of the United University Professions, the nation’s largest higher education union, which represents the faculty and professional staff of the SUNY system, said data has shown that the compensation for top administrators has outpaced the pay for faculty and professional staff at both private and State University of New York schools.

The organization, which has salary data for the 26 state-operated campuses it represents, said the median salary for full-time faculty is $85,613 and $7,076 for part-time adjuncts.

Another concern, Kowal said, is that “while top salaries have risen for administrators at the top level, there has been a turn to more and more dependence on adjunct faculty who are paid very low salaries per course.”

On Long Island, Foley's compensation package was reported as $1,019,799, which included a $100,000 bonus.

Filings from Adelphi showed a package of $1,006,439 — including a $150,000 bonus — for Riordan, who is the first woman to run the college.

Tax-exempt organizations, such as private universities, must report this data to the IRS under “990 Forms,” which provide details on compensation for leaders in higher education nationwide. The 2021 tax documents from Harvard showed that former President Lawrence Bacow, who stepped down in June, was listed as having nearly $1.3 million in income, and longtime Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber earned slightly more than $1 million.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which analyzes this data each year, in 2020 the average pay for chief executives at private nonprofit colleges was $849,605.

Vedder added that universities are offering more perks to its leaders, such as country club memberships and chauffeured cars. Turnover among leaders in higher education is more prevalent, he said.

“The job of being a university president has become more difficult. The political pressures have grown, [and] the financial pressures have grown as enrollment has declined,” he said.

Former Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, who retired in the summer of 2021 after a 20-year career, had a package of more than $2 million when base, bonus, other reportable compensation and nontaxable benefits were factored in. He led a push to transform the private university. 

In a statement, Rabinowitz said, “My final year's total compensation includes a package of deferred compensation paid in light of the fact that I had the honor and privilege of helping to raise the University's international stature and financial resources for the 50 years during which I worked there.”

Current Hofstra President Susan Poser, who succeeded Rabinowitz in August 2021, had a compensation package of $547,138, which included a $90,000 bonus, according to the documents.

Hofstra officials declined to comment.

SUNY officials provided up-to-date data for its top administrators at Long Island’s four-year state schools. Those current annual salaries include nearly $700,000 for Maurie McInnis, who was named Stony Brook University's president in July 2020. According to SUNY officials, her current compensation includes $560,000 in salary and a $135,000 stipend from the Stony Brook Foundation. Officials noted that she took a 10% voluntary cut in her first year because of the impact of COVID-19.

Farmingdale’s John Nader, who recently announced his retirement, earns $295,000, and SUNY Old Westbury President Timothy Sams, who joined the school in January 2021, earned $275,000, SUNY officials said.

The resolutions authorizing the salaries of each of the SUNY presidents state they also receive housing and car services, but an exact figure was not spelled out.

“Our goal is to provide a competitive salary to attract top higher education leaders to our campus — presidents who prioritize the well-being of our students, and who share Chancellor John King’s four pillars of student success; research and scholarship; diversity, equity, and inclusion, and economic development and upward mobility for the benefit of our students and the communities we serve,” SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis said in a statement.

Kowal said, “The explanation is given that high salaries are necessary to attract the best candidates — as an economist I understand the argument. But that is also the case for faculty and professional staff who deserve to be paid more.”

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