- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Million-dollar pay packages are justified to retain the presidents of Georgia Tech and Georgia State, the head of the state’s university system said, despite criticism the compensation is too lavish.

Officials last month justified pay packages for Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson and Georgia State President Mark Becker that boosted their overall compensation to more than $1 million. Jere Morehead, president at the University of Georgia, also received a pay bump to $811,348 starting July 1.

Since higher education is difficult, there is a market for successful presidents, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He defended the pay raises as retention tools.

“If you look at the three top presidents, particularly at Georgia Tech and Georgia State, it is market-driven. These recommended salary increases, which the board and their respective foundations supported, is in response to the market,” he said.

“Both (Peterson) and Mark Becker are hot properties, so if that smacks of corporate America, so be it. … I would have been derelict in my responsibilities if I had not recommended to (the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents) that these two persons be retained.”

A salary survey of public college leaders released Sunday by The Chronicle of Higher Education reported two presidents - at Pennsylvania State University at University Park and Texas A&M; University at College Station - received total compensation of more than $1 million. Totals for both of those presidents include severance payments.

The survey includes information reported for 238 chief executives at 220 public universities and systems for the last fiscal year and reported an average salary of $428,000. For that year, Becker, Morehead and Peterson were top earners in Georgia, according to Chronicle data, but they earned less than presidents at surrounding state colleges and comparable schools nationally.

A political science professor at Georgia Southwestern State University, Gary Kline, sent a letter to Huckaby and the Board of Regents last month criticizing the pay raises.

Kline said Georgia’s university system increasingly resembles a corporation “where CEOs at the top receive the big raises year after year and the cogs at the bottom get nothing.”

“We’re not a corporation. You don’t have to pay millions to the CEO,” Kline said.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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