Most of the public university presidents in Ohio make more money than the national median salary for the job, according to a new survey The Chronicle of Higher Education released last night.

Most of the public university presidents in Ohio make more money than the national median salary for the job, according to a new survey The Chronicle of Higher Education released last night.

The publication sought salaries for the 2011-12 academic year, and 10 of the state's public-college presidents answered the survey. Nine of them reported earning more than $441,392, the median total compensation of the 212 public-university presidents in the survey. Eight of them made more than $500,000.

Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, who had been No. 1 in earlier surveys, came in third-highest among public-university presidents in the nation, with $1.9 million in total compensation in 2011-12.

Jack Stripling, a senior reporter covering college leadership for the Chronicle, speculated that Gee's pay might have influenced that of other college presidents in the state.

"Universities often look within their own state to develop a peer group, and because Gordon Gee is at the top or near the top of presidential pay in the nation, it might be that everyone else looks like they make a reasonable amount," Stripling said.

After Gee, the three public-college presidents in Ohio with the highest compensation were then-University of Cincinnati President Gregory H. Williams at $718,765; Cleveland State University President Ronald M. Berkman at $630,000; and Wright State University President David R. Hopkins at $626,606.

Santa Ono succeeded Williams, who resigned from the University of Cincinnati last September. Ono's annual base salary is $525,000, and he has said he will forgo any bonuses or salary increases for two years.

Though Gee's total compensation is no longer tops, he retained the highest base pay - $830,439 for 2011-12, according to the survey.

Gee had been at the top of the pay scale every year since he became the first public-college leader to surpass the $1 million mark, in 2007-08. After a 3 percent pay raise and bonus this year, Gee now earns a little more than $2.1 million.

During his decades-long career in higher education, Gee has weathered storms, including the tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal that prompted football coach Jim Tressel's departure and resulted in the bowl ban for the Buckeyes in 2012.

"Scandals don't change presidential contracts; boards do," Stripling said.

He said Gee's popularity has probably helped him. "I think presidents who enjoy popularity can make a lot of money and have minimal backlash," he added.

In a written statement, the university emphasized Gee's contributions to Ohio State. Under his watch, the statement said, the university has raised more than $1.6 billion in private money, with the past two years of fundraising the most successful in OSU history; and research expenditures have increased by more than $230 million in the past five years, to $934 million in 2012.

"Since 2007, President Gee has enhanced the university's academic profile, strengthened its long-term financial foundation and held tuition increases to a minimum," the statement said. "He has demonstrated leadership at the state and national levels."

Then-Penn State President Graham B. Spanier and Auburn University President Jay Gogue beat out Gee with higher total pay in 2011-12.

One of the longest-serving presidents in the nation, Spanier was fired from Penn State in November 2011 for his handling of the child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. He received $2.9 million in compensation that year, including $1.2 million in severance pay and $1.2 million in deferred compensation.

"If the board had tried to fire him for cause, they could have saved the campus millions of dollars," Stripling said.

Gogue of Auburn University in Alabama earned more than $2.5 million in 2011-12.

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