EDITORIAL: College presidents rewarded much like corporate CEOs

There were some people -- mainly college professors -- who looked at the news that some of their bosses were too valuable to lose and had been given raises by the Board of Regents to push their salaries in excess of $1 million and shook their heads. Bud Peterson, Georgia Tech’s president, and Georgia State’s Mark Becker passed the $1 million mark. University of Georgia President Jere Morehead received a raise to $811,348.

What is a college president worth? Some compare college presidents to a corporate CEOs. Not a bad comparison when looking at what a college president has to oversee. UGA’s Morehead is responsible for 389 buildings and almost 10,000 employees, not to mention the school’s more than 35,000 students while managing a $1.48 billion annual budget. Tech has 6,700 employees, 242 buildings and a budget of about $1.4 billion. Georgia State’s Becker has 32,000 students and 4,400 faculty and staff.

Here’s news: Of the three president’s mentioned, two are not the school’s highest paid employees. At UGA, Head Football Coach Mark Richt pulls down $4 million from the UGA Athletic Foundation. Does Richt have to worry about the academic success of 35,000 students? Tech’s Paul Johnson makes slightly more than $3 million. Does he have to worry about the number of research grants coming into the school? Trent Miles, head coach of the Georgia State Panthers football team, makes only $510,000. Even UGA’s men’s basketball coach Mark Fox makes more money than the school president, and Brian Gregory at Tech is about on par with Peterson.

We place value on different things. We happen to be a sports-happy nation, and that’s not just because we live in SEC and ACC territory. Head coaches and school presidents are not a dime-a-dozen. Coaches’ victories and failures are out front for all to see, but college presidents battle in a different arena -- forging lasting relationships with funders and making sure their institutions continue to grow and attract new students. And while they don’t block and tackle or set screens in the sports-related sense, there is true competition between schools for top students -- and top funders.

The salary adjustments assure that the leaders at three of Georgia’s premier institutions are not lured away by greener pastures even if they aren’t the highest-paid on campus.