At $640, 780, Rosenberg’s total compensation exceeds that of most peers

By Diego Ruiz

In 2009, Macalester President Brian Rosenberg was one of the top five highest-paid college presidents among 33 peer institutions, according to figures published earlier this week by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Rosenberg’s 2009 base salary was $435,741, while his total compensation for the same year was $640,780. The latter figure includes benefits such as health insurance, worker’s compensation, the value of living in a college-owned house and driving a car leased by the college, a life insurance policy taken out by the college, and $74,500 in deferred compensation that Rosenberg will only receive if he serves out the remainder of his contract. Rosenberg’s total compensation made up half a percent of the college’s total budget in 2009. Of nearly 519 chief executives of private colleges with a total budget larger than $50 million included in the report, Rosenberg’s total compensation ranked 99th. When compared with a list of 33 peer institutions from Macalester’s Institutional Research department, Rosenberg’s total compensation ranked fifth. Measuring by base pay, Rosenberg ranked fourth. (Because switching executives mid-year can distort compensation figures, either through large deferred payouts or having salaries for only a portion of the year, The Mac Weekly did not include data from six peer institutions where there was a change in leadership during 2009. One peer institution did not provide a salary figure to the Chronicle.) Rosenberg’s compensation package has risen significantly during his time at Macalester. In 2004-05, the first year of complete data in Rosenberg’s tenure, his total compensation was $381,937. Since then it has increased 68 percent (unadjusted for inflation). The increases in executive compensation at Macalester are part of a trend of increasing salaries for presidents at both private and public colleges and universities across the United States. While executive compensation does not make up a large portion of schools’ budgets, its symbolic importance – along with the fact that presidents’ salaries are the only ones that institutions have to report publicly – has made it a point of debate on many campuses. Rosenberg said that one of the reasons he was among the highest paid executives at peer institutions was that he had been president for nearly a decade. “If you look at the top 50 liberal arts colleges now, I’m certainly in the top 10 in terms of longevity,” said Rosenberg. “So one of the things that’s happened is that I’ve lasted…As you stay around longer, you tend to move up in relative terms compared to peers at other institutions.” Rosenberg also noted, “I don’t set my salary, like any employee. The ones who set my salary are the Board of Trustees.” Members of the Board effusively praised Rosenberg’s tenure at Macalester when asked why his compensation figure had risen to the degree it has during his tenure as president. “We have among the best presidents of any college in the US,” said David Deno ’79, President of the Board of Trustees. “He has done more for our school than [students] could possibly imagine.” “You have to be a great academic leader, a good financial manager, and a good fundraiser,” Deno said. “Very few people have the skill to be a great college president…When you get a great college president, it’s very, very important that they’re recognized for what they do.” Deno cited sound financial management that led the college through the recession with surpluses and a large increase in applications as successes of the Rosenberg tenure. Additionally, Deno noted that Rosenberg has overseen record fundraising that has led to the construction of new facilities such as the Leonard Center, Markim Hall and the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, along with increases in the amount of financial aid offered to Macalester students. “[Donors] are investing in the person of Brian Rosenberg, and what the leadership is. That’s what he’s been able to do,” said Deno. Jerry Crawford ’71, the chair of the $150 million Step Forward capital campaign and a trustee who serves on the committee that sets the president’s pay, said that the Rosenberg’s leadership was critical to the increase in fundraising during his tenure. Crawford noted that Step Forward has successfully hit a goal more than three times the size of any previous capital campaign at the college, and that Rosenberg’s choice to hire Tommy Bonner as the Vice President for Advancement was a “momentous decision.” “The people who have written the checks have to be given all the credit in the world for their generosity and support, but at the end of the day it was President Brian Rosenberg and Tommy Bonner who put this campaign together,” said Crawford. “I firmly believe his compensation should be higher than it is,” said Crawford.