Texas' top public university administrators remain among the highest paid in the country, according to a nationwide survey released Wednesday.
University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp ranked second and third in the nation, earning $1.5 million and $1.3 million respectively, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education's annual Executive Compensation Report, which lists the pay of chancellors and presidents of public universities.
Texas A&M University President Michael Young, who made $1 million, was the only other Texan in the top 10; he placed eighth.
University of Houston System Chancellor Renu Khator, who made $851,000, ranked 14th this year — down from the very top spot last year. She ranked higher last year because she collected $200,000 in bonuses and $400,000 in deferred compensation — pay used by universities to incentivize employees to stay in their jobs.
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Lee Jackson, chancellor of the Denton-based University of North Texas system, ranked 29th with $734,967. Further down the list are UT-Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari ($570,484) and UNT President Neal Smatresk ($523,120).
The average total compensation for public college presidents was $501,398 in fiscal year 2016, a 5.3 percent increase over the prior year. The Chronicle of Higher Education includes base pay, bonuses and other perks in its rankings.
This year's highest-paid public university president was Arizona State University's Michael Crow, thanks to a $550,000 bonus he collected for staying at the university for 10 years. He earned just under $1.6 million including that bonus.
Texas university leaders have been well-compensated for decades, but they have only risen to the top of national lists in recent years. Last year, The Texas Tribune reported that pay for the state's chancellors and flagship university presidents had shot up 70 percent over the previous four years. That growth has rankled some politicians, who question whether it's the best use of state resources.
But regents from the state's top university systems — who are appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott and set the pay for chancellors and presidents — defended the expenditures, saying they are needed to recruit the best talent.
"Our chancellor is essentially the CEO of one of the largest and most complex organizations in the state of Texas and one of the largest systems of higher education in the country, and we believe his compensation is reasonable and justified," said UT System Board Chairman Paul Foster. "He is well-recognized as a great leader and manager, and in my opinion, earns every cent."
University of Houston System Board Chairman Tilman Fertitta said the pay is a reflection of the size of Texas universities and the state's commitment to education.
"Given the $6 billion economic impact that UH alone has on the city of Houston and the amount of research dollars spent, I don’t think anyone should be surprised at what it takes to recruit talented chief executives capable of innovating and managing billion-dollar budgets," Fertitta said.
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