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Several College Presidents Earn More Than $1 Million

At a time when the cost of college is an increasing worry for many families, running a public college is becoming a more lucrative job

Nine public-college presidents earned more than $1 million a year in total compensation in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, a new analysis from The Chronicle of Higher Education finds.

That’s up from four in 2011-2012 and three in 2010-2011.

The analysis of presidents at more than 200 public universities and systems found that most public college presidents were far from the million-dollar mark. The median total compensation for the 2012-2013 year was $478,896, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

The highest-paid college president was E. Gordon Gee, the former president of The Ohio State University. He had total compensation of more than $6 million while at Ohio State, the report found, although much of that was due to deferred compensation and severance pay.

Gee’s base salary and bonus alone totaled nearly $1.2 million, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Image: West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee
West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee answers questions during an interview on Jan. 28, 2010, in Columbus, Ohio. Jay LaPrete / AP, file

A spokesperson from The Ohio State University declined to comment.

Gee left the Ohio State in June 2013 and is currently the president of West Virginia University, a position he previously held in the mid-1980s. His current compensation wasn’t included in the Chronicle's report because it came after the period reviewed.

In a statement e-mailed to NBC News by West Virginia University, Gee said, "I don't work as a university president for the salary. Those are set by boards. My service as a university president is truly a calling and in the case of West Virginia University, it is a way of paying forward for the opportunities I was provided as a young president at the age of 36."

The report comes as many families are grappling with big increases in public school tuition rates. According to the College Board, tuition and fees at public, four-year universities have risen an average of 27 percent in the past five years, to $8,893 in the 2013-2014 academic year.

It’s more common for presidents of private universities to receive $1 million in compensation, or more. The Chronicle of Higher Education said that in the 2011 calendar year, the most recent year for which data is available, 42 private-college presidents topped the $1 million mark.