Ivy League Presidents Take Pay Cuts Up to 25% in Crisis

Ivy League university presidents are doing some belt tightening of their own.

Half of the eight Ivy leaders have taken pay cuts of up to 25%. In 2018, the median compensation for this group was $1.4 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from tax filings.

The reductions are part of sweeping measures -- from staff salary freezes to suspending new hiring -- that U.S. colleges are taking to contend with the financial fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

They’re also being put in place as Congress has grown hostile to the wealthiest schools. Lawmakers passed a tax on the biggest university endowments in 2017 and the Trump administration has threatened to eliminate the tax exemption for nonprofit colleges.

Ivy League Presidents Take Pay Cuts Up to 25% in Crisis

Reducing compensation for these top officials isn’t just smart, it’s good politics, according to Richard Vedder, an emeritus professor at Ohio University.

“These schools are cruising for trouble if they don’t rein in pay,” said Vedder, who formerly headed the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “Politically they have to do this.”

Earlier this year, Harvard University, with an endowment of about $40 billion, predicted a revenue shortfall of $1.2 billion. It has reduced some staff hours and offered early retirement to cut expenses.

In turn, President Larry Bacow has agreed to a 25% pay cut -- the largest among those announced by his peers. Bacow was paid about $570,000 in 2018, the latest year figures are available. That sum reflects his first six months in the post.

At Cornell University, President Martha Pollack is taking a 20% reduction in pay, a spokesman said Wednesday. Top members of her administration are also taking less compensation for six months of this year. The presidents and senior staff including endowment chiefs also took pay cuts at Brown University and Dartmouth College.

Columbia University has announced the suspension of all new hiring and a pay freeze that includes all deans and central administrative leaders. That move includes its president, Lee Bollinger.

In 2018, the university disclosed $4.6 million in total compensation for Bollinger, making him the highest paid Ivy president that year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.