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If Harvard or Princeton do come knocking on her door, Penn President Judith Rodin might tell them she's better paid here than she would be at her Ivy counterparts. Rodin ranked as the highest-paid president of a private university in a recent survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, raking in a total compensation package of $655,557 for fiscal year 1998-99. "I am honored by the confidence that Penn's Trustees have in me, and grateful for the generous compensation that I receive," Rodin said in an e-mail statement. But though she led the universities, Rodin's pay came in behind that of former Williams College President Harry Payne, who topped the larger group of 479 colleges and universities with a compensation package of $878,222. That number included a hefty retirement package from when he stepped down in October 1999. Within her overall compensation package, Rodin received $605,165 in base pay and $52,392 in benefits. She also received a $12,000 expense account that is used for her car. The study notes that 1998-99 marks the first year that the regular salaries and benefits of any college president exceeded $600,000. New York University and John Hopkins University joined Penn in breaking this boundary. According to John Chandler, a senior consultant for a top-level academic search firm, presidents' salaries have been rising faster in the past several years than in recent memory. "At the major research universities and in the elite private liberal arts colleges, the salaries have been going up at a rapid clip," Chandler said. Rodin's compensation in 1998-99 represented a nearly 20 percent increase from the year before, and her total package has increased by a robust 74.4 percent since she's been at Penn. "In a sense, it's partly supply and demand.... The supply of highly qualified people who are willing to go into the presidency is not all that large," Chandler added. Chairman of the University Trustees James Riepe -- who helps set the University president's salary each year -- said that Rodin's rank toward the top reflects her quality as Penn's leader. "She clearly is one of the best presidents of the large universities in the country, and so to be among the top paid is reasonable," he explained. Riepe said that in setting Rodin's salary, the Trustees look at her accomplishments over the long term and comparative data on what other institutions pay their presidents. But he also acknowledged that keeping Rodin at Penn is a part of setting up her compensation. "There's always an element of retention in compensation," he said. And for many academics, there's the highly paid lure of the corporate world, which Chandler said could drive up salaries. "After all, boards of colleges and universities usually are well aware of what's going on in the corporate world," he explained, adding that presidents' salaries "look awfully low" when compared to those of CEOs of major companies. But university presidents shouldn't expect to always see such rapid increases, Chandler cautioned. "I think there will come a point when there will be pressures against the presidential salaries rising as rapidly as they have in recent years," he noted. "There will be more attention to what colleges and university presidents make relative to faculty members." Even Riepe said that Rodin shouldn't expect another 20 percent pay raise next year. "I don't anticipate that it will continue rising at that rate," he said.

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