Research in Higher Education

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

The Impact of U.S. News College Rankings on the Compensation of College and University Presidents

  • Ryan YeungEmail author
  • Philip Gigliotti
  • Phuong Nguyen-Hoang


Widespread attention to college tuition and student loan debt has resulted in increasing scrutiny of high levels of compensation for college and university administrators. Prior research has sought to identify a “pay for performance” relationship in executive compensation, but discovered no clear link between presidential salaries and performance measures. This study proposes U.S. News & World Report college rankings as a highly meaningful performance metric and employs a fixed effects regression model to determine the relationship between college rankings and presidential salary. We find a significant relationship between rank and presidential salary at public universities, but not at private universities and liberal arts colleges, consistent with an academic capitalism model.


U.S. News rankings College presidents Presidential compensation Pay-for-performance Board of trustees Academic capitalism 



The authors would like to thank Dana St. Aubin for help with data collection, the support of Distinguished Professors Award for Graduate Student Research at SUNY-Brockport, and two anonymous referees for their comments.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hunter CollegeUrban Policy and PlanningNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and PolicyUniversity at Albany, SUNYAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.School of Urban and Regional Planning and Public Policy CenterUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

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