Higher (Cost) Education

Rensselaer Polytechnic is an outstanding academic institution, one that has minted more than a few of the stellar engineers working in the electronics industry today.

And you can count me among those who believe that if we want to ensure that top minds continue to consider careers in academia, the pay scale needs to reflect such emphasis.

But the news that Rensselaer’s president received more than $7.1 million in total pay in 2012, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual pay survey leaves me stunned.

While it’s true Rensselaer president Shirley Ann Jackson has a stellar resume and much of her pay came via a $5.9 million retention incentive that kept her in place for 10 years, the incentive bonus coupled with her annual salary of $945,000 means the real cost came to  $1.5 million a year.

Rensselaer’s annual tuition cost: $46,700 per semester (not including room and board).

How many students do we discourage from or otherwise price out of the leading colleges each year? How many of those who do suck up and write the checks leave so encumbered by student loans that they end up on Wall Street or sales or some other non-engineering area where they can recoup their “investment?” And for good measure, let’s ask what is the mission of the university in the first place?