The highest-paid private college president in the US runs a small, obscure polytechnic

Hint: it’s not Clinton.
Hint: it’s not Clinton.
Image: AP Photo/Tim Roske
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Theoretical physicist Shirley Ann Jackson is the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a small college in New York state, with 6,995 students, as of fall 2013.

In 2012, the college paid Jackson $7.14 million. That’s the equivalent of tuition for 153 students. Or, more than $1,000 per student. 

It’s also around $3.4 million more than any other private college president was paid that year, according to a new report by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Jackson’s base pay of $945,000 is actually not the highest on the list—that honor goes to controversial NYU president John Sexton. In calculating compensation, this report includes base salary, bonuses, nontaxable benefits, and “other reportable compensation.” (It doesn’t include deferred compensation, like pensions.)

For Jackson, the first three add up to about $1.25 million, leaving about $5.9 million in “other” pay. This was mostly from a retention incentive for reaching a 10-year benchmark with the college, according to a July press release that Rensselaer emailed to Quartz.

Rensselaer is known most for its engineering school, and is ranked 42 in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings (tied with Boston University, Northeastern University; University of California, Irvine and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).

The college’s board of directors says it is satisfied with the money paid. “We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Jackson, and will do everything in our power to recognize her unique value to Rensselaer, and prevent other universities from hiring away such an accomplished and transformative thought leader,” Arthur Gajarsa, chairman for the board of trustees, said in the press release.