High Point University president among highest-paid in U.S., report says

Nido Qubein, President of High Point University.
Nido Qubein, President of High Point University. High Point University

The president of High Point University ranked as the third highest-paid university president in the country, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report on 2013 data.

Nido Qubein, president of High Point for the past decade, was paid $2.9 million in total compensation that year, behind only Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, who made $4.6 million, and University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, who made $3 million.

Duke University President Richard Brodhead’s 2013 compensation was nearly $1.2 million, including base pay of about $874,000. Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch’s compensation was $1 million, including salary of $807,000.

In the Charlotte area, Wingate University President Jerry McGee had the highest total compensation in 2013 at $576,252. The total included $323,404 in base pay for McGee, who retired this year after leading the university for nearly a quarter century.

Other private schools on the list included:

▪ Davidson College President Carol Quillen, $420,692 total compensation, including $378,295 base pay.

▪ Queens University of Charlotte President Pamela Davies, $406,659 total, $282,283 base pay.

▪ Lenoir-Rhyne University President Wayne Powell, $308,998 total, $240,188 base pay.

▪ Catawba College President Brien Lewis, $293,940 total, $249,152 base pay.

The Chronicle examined tax returns from about 500 private nonprofit colleges with the largest endowments. The median salary of presidents was $436,429 – up 5.6 percent from 2012. Overall, 32 private college leaders in the United States passed the $1 million mark – compared with only two public university presidents in 2014.

The escalating salaries of higher education leaders come at a time of growing concern about student debt and college costs, which have risen faster than inflation.

The escalating salaries of higher education leaders come at a time of growing concern about student debt and college costs, which have risen faster than inflation.

In the Chronicle’s report, total compensation included base salary, bonuses, nontaxable benefits and other pay, including deferred compensation. It’s not uncommon for the best-compensated leaders to be given hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual deferred compensation that can be invested tax-free until it is paid out. Such plans are used to keep presidents on the job longer; if they leave before their contract is up, they usually have to forfeit the deferred compensation.

Public colleges are also giving deferred compensation. Margaret Spellings, who will start the job of UNC system president in March, will be paid $775,000 in salary, plus undetermined performance bonuses and deferred compensation. The UNC system also recently gave raises to 12 chancellors, ranging from 8 percent to 19 percent.

A High Point spokeswoman said Monday that Qubein’s salary is $662,000; he also received other compensation of more than $2 million. A statement from HPU’s trustee board chairman, Richard Vert, said: “It would be impossible to compensate Dr. Qubein for the incredible results he delivers at HPU. We believe that in him we have the best college president in the country to lead our growing university.”

High Point has tripled its enrollment to 4,300 in the past decade and expanded the size of its campus, while adding four new academic schools – health sciences, pharmacy, communications and art & design. High Point’s tuition, fees, room and dining plan are $44,630 this year, according to the university’s website.

High Point has also built a reputation for catering to its students with a fine dining restaurant, hot tubs, free laundry and other amenities.

Observer reporter Adam Bell contributed.