The highest-paid college president in North Carolina is not running Duke, UNC, NC State or Wake Forest.
That honor belongs instead to Nido Qubein, president of High Point University, a private school 70 miles west of Durham with an enrollment of 4,400. Qubein, a motivational speaker who once authored a book titled How to Get Anything You Want, earned $2.9 million in total compensation in 2013, according to a just-released annual survey of presidential compensation at private colleges by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
That makes Qubein the third-highest-paid private-college president in the country. Only the presidents of Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania made more in 2013. To put it in a different context, Qubein made more than seven times as much as the median income for private-college presidents, $436,000. His base pay was $662,000, but the goodies that come along with it—performance bonuses, housing, cars, etc.—bumped him up to nearly $3 million.
Qubein has dramatically changed the culture and finances of High Point University since taking over in 2005, as noted in this Bloomberg report from 2012. Under his reign, enrollment has tripled, from 1,450 students to 4,400 students. Black enrollment, however, is way down. So is scholarship aid. Perhaps not surprisingly, tuition at the school is up. Tuition is $32,430—about $45,000 with room and board—for the 2015–16 academic year.
Noting the surprise appearance of such an obscure school at the top of the Chronicle’s list, The New York Times got a statement out of the chairman of High Point’s board, Richard Vert.
“It would be impossible to compensate Dr. Qubein for the incredible results he delivers,” Vert said. (Not possible! No amount of money could do it!)
The presidents at Duke and Wake Forest also ranked near the top of the Chronicle‘s list. Richard Brodhead at Duke made about $1.15 million in total compensation in 2013, making him the 19th-highest earner in the country. Wake Forest’s Nathan Hatch pulled in $1.07 million, ranking him 26th.
In her first year, newly appointed UNC president Margaret Spellings will make a base salary of $775,000—a hefty bump from predecessor Tom Ross’ compensation of $600,000. That’ll make her one of the highest-paid public university presidents in the country. There are performance goals built into Spellings’ contract that will allow her to earn more, but she’s got her work cut out for her if she wants to catch up to Qubein.