Hard times caught up with the president of Stony Brook University last year.
In her final year overseeing the university, Shirley Strum Kenny received a salary and retirement package worth $427,300 - not bad in a recession, but exactly the same as she received the year before.
That zero-percent increase - from the 2007-08 school year to the 2008-09 school year - was fairly common among presidents of public universities. About one-third of presidents saw no raise in pay, and some endured pay cuts, according to a survey released on Monday by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
"Presidents didn't want raises and boards didn't want to give them in a year when many states were facing the biggest fiscal crisis in decades," said Jeffrey Selingo, the Chronicle's editor.
Kenny's pay package was just about the same as the $427,600 package given to the president of the University at Buffalo, often considered Stony Brook's peer. But Buffalo's president received a $25,000 increase over the previous year. Stony Brook and Buffalo's top salaries were well above that given to the president of Binghamton. She received $344,500, a $10,000 increase over the previous year.
Kenny's compensation package included a car and the use of a house, as it has in other years. Her package was significantly less than that of the highest-paid public university president - Ohio State's E. Gordon Gee. He took in a whopping $1.58 million in the fiscal year ended June, 2009. Other top earners included the presidents of flagship public universities in Washington State, Delaware and Virginia.
In all, the presidents' salaries rose a modest 2.3 percent from the 2007-08 school year to the 2008-09 school year, according to the survey of 185 public research universities and community colleges. The median compensation was $436,111 - close to what Stony Brook paid.
The survey did not include smaller four-year campuses such as SUNY campuses at Farmingdale and Old Westbury.
The survey also found that former Nassau Community College president Sean Fanelli made a total of $313,331 last year, while former Suffolk County Community College president Shirley Robinson Pippins made $237,056. Spokesmen for Nassau and Suffolk Community Colleges didn't respond to e-mails last night.
Cutting or freezing presidential salaries at Stony Brook "won't balance the books," said Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed, which also monitors campuses. "But SUNY has taken quite a beating, and the presidents' salaries take on great symbolic value."