N.C. college president was the highest paid in the country

Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch received $4 million in 2015, making him the highest paid college president in the United States, according to data released Sunday by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Of his total compensation of $4,004,617, Hatch’s base salary was $839,944 in 2015. He was paid a $92,000 bonus and received $3,009,376 in other compensation. The category of “other” often includes tax-deferred contributions to retirement accounts.

Hatch’s total package the previous year was $1,084,511. A Wake Forest spokeswoman, Katie Neal, said the increase stemmed from an agreement when Hatch was hired in 2005 for a supplemental executive retirement plan that would be paid out at the completion of his 10th year as president. Each year, $255,000 was accrued in Hatch’s retirement plan, Neal said, but IRS rules require that the entire benefit be reported in the year of full vesting, in 2015.

Neal said Hatch’s base salary is in line with peers at similar institutions.

The second highest paid president in 2015 was James Wagner, the former leader of Emory University in Atlanta, who earned $3.5 million. Former Duke University President Richard Brodhead received $1,257,980 in 2015, including $950,754 in base salary. He ranked 33rd nationally among private university presidents in total compensation.

The top earning public university executive in the United States was Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, whose compensation in 2015-16 exceeded $1.5 million. That same year, N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson received $796,236, which included a bonus of more than $200,000.

In 2015, three presidents from North Carolina, including Hatch and Brodhead, were paid more than $1 million. The third was Nido Qubein, president of High Point University, whose total package was $1,080,026, of which $665,214 was base salary.

For the past decade, the Chronicle of Higher Education has analyzed the pay of 1,200 university leaders at more than 600 private colleges and nearly 250 public universities and university systems. The study is based on the latest available federal tax filings.

The findings show that chief executives’ paychecks are climbing at a rate significantly above inflation. The average pay of private college presidents was up 9 percent in 2015 from the year before. Fifty-eight earned more than $1 million, compared to 39 in 2014.

Wake Forest Board of Trustees Chair Donna Boswell said that the board’s investment in Hatch had paid dividends for the university.

“President Hatch’s compensation over the course of his tenure reflects his exceptional leadership,” Boswell said in a statement Sunday. “He has seen Wake Forest through a transformational period that includes achieving the largest fundraising effort in the University’s history….Not a day goes by that I do not appreciate the Board of Trustees’ vision for Wake Forest and their confidence in Dr. Hatch’s ability to lead us through such a successful period in the life of our beloved University.”

Wake Forest’s campaign has raised more than $795 million to date. Hatch has implemented a test-optional admissions policy, increased diversity and overseen a significant campus renovation, Boswell said.