Pile of money American hundred dollar bills

The Chronicle of Higher Ed is out with its annual look at the compensation of the presidents of private nonprofit colleges, and here's something different: I had to scroll down a pretty long way to find someone from North Carolina.

Wake Forest University's Nathan Hatch (first overall on the 2017 list) and High Point University's Nido Qubein (third on the 2015 list and sixth on last year's) are well down the Chronicle's list this year.

The highest-paid private university leader is Ronald Machtley of Bryant University in Rhode Island, who took home nearly $6.3 million in 2017, according to the report put out late Tuesday. (The Chronicle's private-college numbers are two years behind because it takes a while to collect all the tax filings.)

Two other college leaders collected more than $5 million each in salary, bonuses and other compensation in 2017. They were John Bowen of Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

As for the North Carolina presidents (and please note that I've rounded some numbers):

• Wake Forest's Hatch was 27th in the nation at almost $1.48 million. That number included a $440,000 bonus.

• Richard Brodhead, who retired from Duke University in mid-2017, was 36th at $1.3 million.

• Leo Lambert, who stepped down as Elon University's president in 2018 after 19 years there, was 44th at nearly $1.17 million. That figure included a base salary of nearly $437,000; "other pay" — deferred compensation — came to a little over $703,000.

• HPU's Qubein was outside the national top 50 this year. His total compensation of nearly $1.07 million included a base salary of $720,686.

• The fifth member of N.C.'s Million Dollar Club is Vincent Price, who succeeded Brodhead as Duke's president on July 1, 2017. His pay for the latter half of 2017 was $1.025 million, which included a $350,000 bonus.

Only two other area college presidents made the Chronicle's latest list:

• Jane Fernandes, current president of Guilford College, was paid $290,487 in 2017.

• Lorraine Sterritt, former president of Salem College in Winston-Salem, was paid $230,682.

Overall, according to the Chronicle, the average pay for college presidents who served the entire 2017 calendar year was $608,000, up 10.5 percent from the prior year. Sixty-four made more than $1 million.

There's obviously a big gap in what college presidents are paid relative to one another. What contributes to this gap (besides the fact that some private schools have way more money than others) is deferred compensation — dollars that college trustees dangle before a CEO to get him or her to stay around campus. The money is promised at some point, set aside each year, then usually delivered in one fat lump sum when the president hits a job milestone, such as the 10th or 15th anniversary or whatever other date the board and CEO work out.

That was the case with Machtley, who represented Rhode Island in Congress before he became president of Bryant College (renamed Bryant U in 2004) in 1996. As the Chronicle notes here (sub req) and the Providence Journal newspaper notes here, Bryant paid its president $5.4 million in deferred compensation in 2017 "to incentivize President Machtley to remain at Bryant," according to a statement to The Chronicle from Bryant's board chair. (The Journal story notes that almost half of that amount will go to pay taxes.)

Bryant trustees seem pretty happy with Machtley's role as "a catalyst in transforming Bryant from a regional business college to a nationally-ranked, world-class university," according to the statement to the Chronicle. The Providence Journal story quotes a public policy professor at another university who wonders how a school of about 4,000 students that's virtually unknown outside New England can afford that sort of payout.

Machtley, meanwhile, announced earlier that he plans to retire in May. Deferred compensation for private college presidents has set no retirement date.

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