At least one person on campus has done OK as the economy has declined: public university presidents’ salaries climbed 7.6 percent last year, reports the Associated Press. Fifteen presidents of public research universities took home at least $700,000 in 2007-08, up from eight in last year’s survey, and nearly one-third now earn more than $500,000, according to the annual Chronicle of Higher Education survey out Nov. 17. The salary increases almost entirely reflect contracts signed before the economy turned sharply downward, and the boards that govern colleges argue that retaining top talent is even more critical during a crisis. But the latest figures will likely attract more criticism this year because colleges and universities across the country are slashing budgets, with many laying off staff. And despite the troubled economy, public universities increased tuition 6.4 percent this fall, according to recent figures from the College Board. "The study shows that the executive suite seems insulated from budget crunches," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R.-Iowa, who has been the sharpest critic in Congress of pay practices at colleges and other nonprofits. "In these hard economic times, apparently belt-tightening is for families and students, not university presidents." The median salary for public university presidents—now $427,400—is almost exactly $100,000 less than at private universities, where the median salary barely changed. But the gap is narrowing as public universities are increasingly willing to spend big money to keep their leaders from being lured away by private schools…

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