Competition for top college presidents is intense these days. But neither Indiana University nor Purdue University trustees appear willing to break the bank to make sure they're landing the right leader.
About one in six of the public universities surveyed by the Chronicle of Higher Education now pays its president more than $500,000.
That's well above the $400,000 IU's new leader, Michael McRobbie, will collect-though his wife, Laurie Burns McRobbie, will receive another $90,000 for her efforts to support and promote the university.
Purdue, which is expected to name the successor to retiring President Martin Jischke within weeks, appears unlikely to crack the $500,000 mark, either.
Jischke's salary is $409,650-though he received a special $400,000 retention bonus this year, a perk the popular president negotiated in 2003 when he agreed to a contract extension.
"The bonus was case-specific and not meant as a given for all future presidents," said Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne Norberg.
Even without the bonus, Jischke's salary increased nearly 40 percent over the seven years he led the university. In contrast, IU's outgoing president, Adam Herbert, who makes $359,000, saw his salary rise just 7 percent since his 2003 hiring.
Short tenures like Herbert's are becoming more common. The average for a college president is now five to seven years, said Shelly Storbeck, a principal with Storbeck Pimentel & Associates, a Philadelphia search firm.
"The job is harder these days," said Storbeck, who previously was with Edward W. Kelley and Partners, the firm hired to lead IU's search. "The chance of a president falling on his face is easier these days."
IU looked at what other Big Ten schools were paying when it set McRobbie's salary, said Steve Ferguson, president of IU's trustees.
"We are not going to be at the top of the Big Ten or at the bottom," said Ferguson, chairman of Bloomington-based Cook Group. "We're going to be fourth or fifth. Whatever that number is, that's the salary."
McRobbie, an IU administrator for a decade, will succeed Herbert in July-the same month Purdue's new president is expected to take office.
Ivy Tech Community College also has a new president coming aboard this summer. Anderson business executive Thomas Snyder will receive $300,000, 9 percent more than retiring President Gerald Lamkin. Jo Ann Gora, Ball State University's president the past three years, is in the same ballpark, earning $295,000.
Salary is by far the biggest component of presidents' compensation packages, in Indiana and nationally. But university leaders also receive other sizable benefits.
McRobbie will receive $50,000 a year in deferred compensation while Jischke received $74,000 a year. Deferred compensation can help ensure that a president stays for the length of his contract, Ferguson said, because the payments don't immediately vest.
The presidents of IU, Purdue, Ball State and Ivy Tech all receive cars.
A more unusual benefit is IU's paying the president's spouse, a practice that also applied to Herbert's wife, Karen, who received $60,000 a year.
Gora's contract entitles her to a sixmonth paid leave of absence in 2009, after completing her fifth year as president. Under the agreement, she must serve another year as president after the leave.
The presidents of IU, Purdue and Ball State receive free use of homes-a benefit common among university leaders nationwide.
Like his predecessors, Jischke lives in Westwood, a four-bedroom home on five acres adjacent to the West Lafayette campus. Former Purdue Chief Financial Officer R.B. Stewart gave the residence to the university more than three decades ago. Its main floor is used for university functions and lots of entertaining, Norberg said. Jischke and his family live upstairs.
IU presidents are required to live on the Bloomington campus in Bryan House-though, for family reasons, McRobbie and his family won't move in until September 2008. The house, built more than 100 years ago, is named for the university's 10th president, William Lowe Bryan.
IU presidents also get free use of Lilly House, a three-story, stone-faced mansion in Indianapolis' exclusive Crows Nest neighborhood near West Kessler Boulevard and Meridian Street. The house, given to the university about three decades ago, was built in 1930 by Eli and Ruth Lilly. Eli Lilly was the grandson of the founder of Eli Lilly and Co.
Gora lives in Muncie in BSU's Bracken House, a Georgian-style mansion built in 1937. The property was donated to the school by its owners 10 years ago.