The Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday released it's annual study of compensation for presidents of public colleges and universities. Number one was Michael Crow at Arizona State, at $1,554,000.

However, that pales in comparison to the highest paid president of a private college, Jack Varselona of Wilmington University in Delaware, with $5,559,405.

The University of Montana ranked 167th out of 212 public college presidents in salary and benefits at $316,173 per year.

With the search in progress for a new president, KGVO reached out to Associate Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae, to briefly describe the duties and responsibilities of UM's president, to provide some context as to the compensation to be offered.

"The president is the chief executive officer of an institution that employs over 2,500 people," McRae began. "The campus is also like a city with over 12,000 residents with a 24/7 public safety responsibility. The president is also the head of a major research company, responsible for helping to raise over $100 million a year for the foundation to be used for programs, research and scholarships. He or she must also head up a major collegiate athletic program with radio and television contracts and responsibilities to adhere to NCAA rules and regulations."

With all the responsibilities that come with the job, there is also the knowledge that compensation will never come close to the major universities like number one  Arizona State.

"Compensation competitiveness is always a unique challenge," said McRae. "In terms of what we can offer, we're $50,000 to $60,000 behind Pocatello (Idaho State) or Grand Forks (North Dakota). The four surrounding states average $50,000 to $60,000 per year more."

In addition, UM's enrollment has been steadily declining, but McRae said that is a factor in most schools.

"Only two out of all the Montana University System campuses are not facing reduced enrollment," he said. "In fact, most campuses around the country are facing declining instead of increasing enrollment. However, despite the challenges faced at UM, a qualified and seasoned candidate will understand and embrace those challenges. We're going to be ready to sell all that Montana has to offer."

McRae put the matter of salaries and compensation in perspective with what UM has to offer the right candidate.

"For us, the right amount of compensation is not what some survey says or what other states pay, but it is that amount at which we are able to secure good, capable people to provide Montanans with the quality of education that they expect and they deserve," he said.

McRae said the application period will close at the end of July and then the search committee will winnow down the number until several finalists are chosen and invited for campus visits sometime in September or October. Until then, Sheila Stearns will continue to act as interim president.