The past president of the University of Minnesota was among the best-paid university presidents in the United States.

Robert Bruininks' total compensation of $747,955 in fiscal year 2011 earned him 8th place on a new list of public university leaders compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

That compensation includes a base salary of $447,955, which alone ranks 45th among 199 presidents. But what brings him to the higher spot is $300,000 in deferred compensation.

Bruininks served as president for nearly a decade, and his compensation package was structured to reward him for length of service.

The highest-paid public president in 2011 was E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University. He made nearly $2 million in total compensation. Gee has been featured in a recent New York Times series on college students' rising debt.

The Chronicle's list also compares the enrollment and endowments of the various public schools. Ohio State's enrollment ranks third, while the University of Minnesota's enrollment of 51,721 ranks fourth.

All this talk about presidential salaries reminds me of a conversation (confrontation?) Bruininks had a while back with a few legislators who questioned new U President Eric Kaler's salary.

Bruininks said then that while public universities should not pay outrageous salaries, "we also need to be competitive if we're going to get really good people -- and then trust those people with running, in my judgment, the most complex organization in this entire state."

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