Students may gripe about the size of President Lester Lefton’s paycheck, but many do not know exactly what their tuition money is paying for. Kent State is paying for Lefton to drive a new car every two years, have a crew clean his house three times a week and a membership to two clubs of his choosing.
Lefton’s annual earnings are middle ground for state schools in Ohio. He is paid a base salary of $378,000 per year and is eligible for an annual performance bonus up to 20 percent. His salary falls between The Ohio State University’s presidential salary of $775,000 and Youngstown State’s presidential salary of $239,000.
“I don’t set my salary,” Lefton said. “The Board of Trustees sets my compensation. There is a national market for college presidents. There are college presidents around the country that earn $2 million a year or $3 million a year. I’m no where near that compensation level.”
However, according to an article on businessweek.com, the highest paid university president is Henry Bienen of Northwestern University, which a private university in Illinois. His total annual compensation is $1,742,560, which includes his salary, retirement package, performance bonus, use of house and car and other perks.
Although Lefton doesn’t make as much money as Bienen, the Board of Trustees did provide a large number of perks drawn up in his contract to accompany his salary.
The university will provide Lefton with an American model automobile of his choosing to be leased by the university for his exclusive use. The university will pay for insurance, maintenance, fuel, taxes, licenses, registrations and other expenses.
Four weeks of paid vacation outside business and professional meetings are given each academic year. All his travel, entertainment and other expenses during this time will be paid for him and also for his wife, Linda Lefton.
Membership in two clubs of Lefon’s choice will also funded by Kent State to facilitate fundraising and recruitment for the university.
When moving from New Orleans to Kent, the university reimbursed Lefton and his wife for all expenses including packing and unpacking items, the automobiles and fuel and storage costs.
Lefton is also provided with an allowance to enable him to maintain a residence in Kent. The housing allowance is $50,000 per academic year on top of his salary to use solely to pay for the mortgage. Lefton hosts university events within his home, and a housekeeping service is provided to clean before and after such events. He is also provided with a housekeeping staff three times a week every week and snow removal paid by the university during the winter months.
Board of Trustees chair Jacqueline Woods said Lefton is deserving of his salary, benefits and bonuses.
“President Lefton’s compensation is contractually specified and his performance is assessed by the Board of Trustees,” Woods said. “Under his leadership during the past year, Kent State has achieved double-digit enrollment growth of more than 11 percent, which represents our university’s highest enrollment. His salary is competitive for universities of Kent State’s size and complexity.”
Other Ohio universities similar to Kent State include Cincinnati State, Bowling Green State University, Youngstown State University and the University of Akron. The only university out of those four to top Lefton’s salary is University of Cincinnati’s president, Nancy Zimpher who makes $418,000. This is a mere $40,000 more than Lefton.
President Zimpher’s benefits include the maintenance of a house, automobile allowance of $1,250 per month, threes weeks paid vacation and travel expenses.
Bowling Green State University president Carol Cartwright earns $375,000 annually. Cartwright was formerly the president of Kent State. At Bowling Green, she receives three and a half weeks of paid vacation, a university-owned residence, a cell phone and an automobile. Her contract does not go in detail about an automobile, and there is no mention of paid travel expenses for her spouse, a cleaning staff for her residence or paid membership to social clubs.
Cynthia Anderson, president of Youngstown State, makes the lowest annual salary of $239,000. Although she earns significantly less money than Lefton by $139,000, their benefits are almost identical.
Lefton said the real concern should not be his salary and should be his results as the president of the university.
“The real issue is not what my salary is,” Lefton said. “The real issue is: Do I produce results for Kent State? Did enrollment increase? Did we establish a new college of public health? These are the fundamental issues that we should be concerned with and that’s what the board is concerned with.”
Contact Kate Murphy at [email protected]