These college presidents make at least $1 million

highest paid college presidents

As the cost of college continues to put millions of students in debt, college presidents are making more and more money.

Thirty-six private college presidents were paid more than $1 million in 2012, according to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education released Sunday.

Median pay was up 2.5% over 2011, to nearly $400,000.

The highest paid president in 2012 was Shirley Ann Jackson from New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She made $7.1 million. RPI specializes in engineering and science and has 5,400 undergrad students and 1,200 graduate students.

The president of a similarly sized school, Quinnipiac University, came in second. John Lahey raked in $3.8 million that year, his 25th at the school.

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Columbia University's Lee Bollinger made $3.4 million in 2012. Rounding out the top five are University of Pennsylvania's Amy Guttman, who got $2.5 million, and Charles Middleton at Roosevelt University in Chicago who made $1.8 million.

shirley ann jackson
Rensselaer Polytechnic president Shirley Ann Jackson.

Some of the high-paying schools said that their 2012 compensation packages included one-time bonus payments. At RPI, Columbia, and Roosevelt, presidents were paid earnings that had been put aside over years as a retention incentive. And Quinnipiac's Lahey became fully vested in his retirement plan, which was reported in 2012 even though he won't see that money until after he retires.

Ivory Tower: Student Debt Crisis
Ivory Tower: Student Debt Crisis

Meanwhile, average tuition at private colleges was up 4.2% that year, jumping from $27,883 to $29,056, according to The College Board. And it's still on the rise. This year, tuition is up 3.7%.

More students are taking on debt to finance their college education. Forty million Americans now have at least one outstanding student loan. That's up from 29 million in 2008.

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