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Higher bills for higher ed.

Boston University paid President Robert Brown at least $901,692 in compensation during the 2006-07 academic year, placing him among the top 20 highest-paid college leaders in the country, according to a national survey of college and university tax forms released by The Chronicle of Higher Education this week.

The survey comes at an inopportune time for many college presidents, whose six and seven-figure compensation packages for last year have become public just as the U.S. economy sinks deeper into recession.

The university’s Board of Trustees, which hired Brown in 2005 to replace interim President Aram Chobanian, sets the salaries of the president and other top administrators.’

Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Knox said in an email that the trustees granted Brown a $100,000 bonus after he exceeded trustees’ expectations by recruiting skillful administrators and developing the university’s long-term Strategic Plan, which includes hiring more faculty and expanding research opportunities. Brown ‘energized the University community in a way that we had not seen before,’ he said.

‘Bob Brown approaches the presidency of Boston University as a 24/7 job,’ Knox said. ‘He works tirelessly to improve the quality of education and services provided to our students and engage those who would help the university reach new levels of excellence.’

The Chronicle used BU’s latest IRS filings to determine the figures, which are a combination of the president’s listed salary with pension payments and other benefits.’ BU is a nonprofit institution, so it is exempt from paying taxes but must still list the salaries of top executives for public viewing. Salary information for the 2007-08 academic year was not available at press time because BU has until mid-2009 to file it.

Some college executives chose not to accept added salaries, like University of Connecticut President Michael Hogan, who waived his signing bonus in light of the poor economy, according to this week’s issue of the Chronicle. Rutgers University President Richard McCormick pledged to put his bonus into a five-year scholarship fund.

Center for College Affordability and Productivity Director Richard Vedder said he sees BU as a leader in pay scale reform, in a negative way.

‘I think Boston University was one of the schools that started this trend, not with the current president, but with [Former chancellor and President emeritus] John Silber,’ he said. ‘When he got over a million dollars at the end of his BU career, he was a pioneer in getting a very heavy high pay.’

Silber received more than $1.4 million for the 2005-2006 academic year, in addition to free housing, as per an existing contract, though he is retired and no longer performs any services to the school.

Brown received at least $200,000 more in compensation and deferred payments in his second year as president than his first. That number is still less than the compensation Chobanian received during his final year, according to IRS filings.

The number was abnormally high because the Board also paid for Brown’s ‘relocation expenses’ that year for signing on to live and work at BU, Knox said.

Brown said in an email that he expected his compensation for the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 academic years to be significantly less than in previous years.

Brown said the terms of his payment were set in August 2006, before the recent economic turmoil. The university’s Board of Trustees hired him at a base salary of $650,000.

The raise in compensation for the next year included a bonus for good performance and $89,400 in contributions to his retirement fund, Brown said.

‘Obviously, the economic climate has changed substantially since August 2006, and the university is evaluating all compensation levels in the context of the recession,’ he said.

Brown said he and his wife established a $100,000 undergraduate scholarship fund to benefit students. The fund is similar in size to the endowment established this summer by McCormick, Rutgers’ president.

‘We did not do this out of guilt over my compensation but because we viewed ourselves as having the resources to ‘give back’ to the university and to help undergraduate students come to Boston University,’ he said. ‘We will continue to give to the university for this reason.’

Daily Free Press staff writer Marlesse Marino contributed reporting to this article.

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One Comment

  1. That’s just the problem. The faculty and staff are getting paid sub-par salaries when the president is rolling in the dough. Check out the pay scales on the BU website and you’ll see what I mean. Give some of that money back to the teachers and students who are the lifeblood of the school.