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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
University of Utah President David Pershing applauds the students during commencement in Salt Lake City, Thursday, May 2, 2013. Pershing is the highest paid public university president in Utah, according to the state's transparency website.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's public university presidents collect a smaller paycheck than most, with all but two earning less in total compensation than the national median base pay for the job, according to a report released Sunday.

The national median total compensation for a public university president during the 2011-12 academic year was $441,392, according to the report by the Chronicle of Higher Education. That same year, median base pay increased 2 percent to $373,800.

In Utah, the highest paid public university president is the University of Utah's David Pershing, who received $571,421 in total compensation for the 2011-12 academic year, according to the state's transparency website. He is currently ranked 46th in the nation by the Chronicle of Higher Education in terms of total compensation.

Pershing was followed in the state by Utah State University's Stan Albrecht, who earned $402,667 for the same period, and Southern Utah University's Michael T. Benson, who was paid $281,513.

Pamela Silberman, spokeswoman for the Utah System of Higher Education, said she was not able to confirm the reported compensations beyond individual base salaries, but agreed that Utah's presidents typically earn less than both peer school presidents and national medians.

"All of our institutions are well below the median of their peers," she said.

Silberman said compensation levels in Utah are based in part on the salaries paid by similar institutions. She said each of Utah's public colleges and universities is part of a 10-school peer group, with Utah's presidential salaries falling 13 percent to 30 percent below the median of their peers.

She also said that salaries are meant to be competitive in order to attract quality candidates, who effectively serve as the CEO of a large organization. Benson recently announced that he would be leaving SUU in August to accept the top position at Eastern Kentucky University, where he will reportedly be paid an annual base salary of $400,000.

"It’s a national market when we’re competing for presidents," she said. "When we put it in that perspective, I think that the salaries are commensurate with the responsibility and the expectations of a university president."

At the remaining universities in the state, Weber State University's then-President F. Ann Millner received $268,320 in total compensation, Utah Valley University's Matthew Holland received $245,320, and at Dixie State University — which gained university status in February — President Stephen Nadauld earned $170,067.

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