Four university leaders from North Carolina were among the 50 highest-paid public college presidents in 2019, according to the newest annual survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The highest-paid state university president in North Carolina that year was Cecil Staton, the former East Carolina University chancellor who was forced out of his job early in 2019. Staton’s total compensation of $884,277 — which included salary and severance — ranked 34th in the nation, according to the Chronicle’s newest report, which was published last week.

N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson was 37th ($874,712 in total compensation) on the Chronicle’s list. Bill Roper, the interim president of the UNC System who will step down next Friday, was 42nd ($845,434). Roper’s predecessor, former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, was 47th ($788,470) and one of just seven women in the Chronicle’s top 50.

The Chronicle reported on two trends that continue to push pay higher: severance packages to get presidents to leave, and deferred compensation to get them to stay.

For Staton and Spellings, who both left their North Carolina jobs in early 2019, severance pay was the bulk of their compensation that year. Staton got nearly $600,000 in severance, according to the Chronicle. Spellings was paid $535,000 in severance when the UNC Board of Governors pushed her out in early 2019 with two years left on her five-year contract.

Most of Roper’s compensation, meanwhile, came from salary, which accounted for nearly $744,000 of his pay in 2019.

His successor, former N.C. community college system president Peter Hans, will be paid $400,000 annually. But Hans could get a bonus of up to $600,000 each year if he meets performance goals set by the Board of Governors.

Woodson’s compensation included base salary of $664,387 and a $200,000 bonus paid for by N.C. State’s foundation, a nonprofit that raises private funds for the university.

The nation’s highest-paid public university president in 2019 was Mark Becker, who has been president of Georgia State University in Atlanta since 2009. Nearly 80 percent of his $2.8 million in compensation in 2019 was deferred from previous years and paid out in a lump sum in 2019.

The Chronicle didn’t provide more details about Becker’s deferred pay, but university governing boards sometimes use deferred compensation to keep their chief executives from leaving for other jobs. Deferred compensation is often paid when a university leader reaches a certain milestone, such as his or her 10th work anniversary.

The Chronicle reported that 19 public university leaders were paid more than $1 million in 2019. Among this number were the presidents of Texas A&M University, the Ohio State University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Virginia.

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312 and follow @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter.

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