University Presidents Salary Comparison, Pt. 2

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Earlier this month, a Pioneer Institute blog compared the salaries of New England flagship public university presidents. These school leaders often rank among the state’s highest-paid public employees. The presidents of these and the other respected universities and colleges in Massachusetts all have notable salaries, but what about the presidents of the other state schools in Massachusetts? This blog will look at the salaries of presidents of Massachusetts state universities, while excluding those in the UMASS system for a fair comparison.

Presidential Salaries at Massachusetts State Schools Source: MassOpenBooks, OpenPayrolls

These salaries all fall between $200,000 and $300,000 annually, without really having an outlier. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts president James Birge has the highest salary with $266,641, and there isn’t a large drop off between him and the next four highest earners seen on Figure 1. The back end of the list shares a similar trend, with last place John Keenan of Salem State quite close to the two presidents ranked above him, Linda Thompson of Westfield State and Francis McDonald of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

Fall Enrollment Trends and Distribution, Blue Dot represents Fall, 2021 Source: Massachusetts Department of Higher Education

Figure 2 shows the enrollment levels and trends of these universities over the past 20 years. A wide majority of universities across the country have experienced enrollment declines since the COVID-19 pandemic. Massachusetts’ exception was Mass Maritime Academy, which was the only school with significant enrollment advances pre-COVID, and it also had the smallest drop off in enrollment after the pandemic.

 The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts had 938 students enrolled this past fall, yet its president makes the most compared to his peers. Only two schools on this list, Bridgewater State and Mass Maritime, do not have their lowest enrollment in a 20 year period. Also, when comparing Figure 1 and 2, Bridgewater State’s president Frederick Clark makes the sixth most on this list, but his university has the largest enrollment.

Curiously, Framingham State President Nancy Niemi is not even the highest paid employee at her own school, which can be explained by her recent appointment in 2022. All the other presidents are the highest paid employees at their respective schools.

Although these presidents fall behind their flagship counterparts in salary, all but Framingham State’s Niemi lead their respective institutions when it comes to pay. As Massachusetts continues to be a leader in higher education, the pay given to these presidents is warranted.


About the Author:

Teddy Wynn is a Roger Perry government transparency intern with the Pioneer Institute. He recently graduated from Hamilton College, earning a Bachelor’s degree in World Politics. Feel free to reach out via email, Linkedin, or write a letter to Pioneer’s Office in Boston.