New Study Finds Modest Gains in CEO Compensation At Community Colleges

Nov 13, 2012, 09:00 ET from American Association of Community Colleges

Next Decade to See Substantial Leadership Turnover Nationwide

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Base salaries for CEOs of the nation's more than 1,100 community colleges increased a modest 4.1-6.2% over the last six years (2006-2012), according to a new study released today by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

The increase varied according to the type of institution where the CEO served, with single-campus colleges posting the greater increase, followed by leaders at multicampus colleges, then by CEOs of individual colleges of multicollege districts. Median salary across all respondents was $167,000, and mean base salary was $173,983. The 37-question survey on which the study is based had a response rate of 39%.

A secondary finding from the study, Compensation and Benefits of Community College CEOs: 2012, relates to anticipated CEO turnover at the colleges and has potentially greater and more long-lasting impact for leaders of higher education's largest sector. Almost 75% of respondents indicate they plan to retire within the next decade, and an additional 15% say they will leave their jobs in the next 11-15 years, according to the study.

Other key findings of the AACC study include the following:

  • Community college CEOs typically receive a variety of allowances in addition to cash compensation. Most respondents (70%) indicated such allowances included college-provided housing, a housing allowance or both; 66% received a college-provided car, a car allowance or both; 58% received an allowance for professional club dues.
  • Retirement plans were also common, with most (73%) receiving a defined contribution plan such as a 403(b) or 401(k).
  • Women's median base salaries surpassed those of men slightly, although men earned more in total cash compensation. (Women comprise 28__% of all community college CEOs.)
  • Black and Hispanic CEOs earned more on average, than white CEOs.  The median total cash compensation was $210,000 for Black CEOs, $207,553 for Hispanic CEOs, and $176,300 for white CEOs. (Study authors say further analysis indicates that Black and Hispanic CEOs were more likely to work at larger institutions and in urban areas, where salaries tend to be higher.)

The study's findings seem almost counterintuitive, AACC leaders say, given current trends affecting community colleges. Over the last few years the colleges have experienced record enrollment -- from 2007-2011, enrollments surged 22% (

as students looked for lower-cost options, and unemployed or underemployed workers sought skills in high-demand fields during the recession. At the same time, the colleges enjoyed high visibility, as workforce experts lauded the practical value of market-responsive career programs and certificates. 

"The news media, policy makers and employers have helped put our colleges in an unprecedented spotlight in recent years," said AACC President and CEO Walter G. Bumphus. "As welcome as that attention has been, this study suggests just one of the tremendous challenges that our leaders face: modest pay for one of the toughest jobs in higher education. Our association is laser focused on better preparing the high numbers of new leaders our colleges will need and supporting those who are striving against increased expectations and diminished resources."

The American Association of Community Colleges is a national organization representing the nation's more than 1,100 community, junior and technical colleges and their more than 13 million students. Community colleges are the largest sector of higher education, currently serving close to half of all U.S. undergraduates.

SOURCE American Association of Community Colleges