While it may come as no surprise that University of Washington President Mark Emmert is near the top of the list — as he has been since arriving in 2004 — a big mover this year is Elson Floyd, Emmert's counterpart at Washington State University.

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Washington now boasts two of the highest-paid university presidents in the country, according to a new report being released today by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

While it may come as no surprise that University of Washington President Mark Emmert is near the top of the list — as he has been since arriving in 2004 — a big mover this year is Elson Floyd, Emmert’s counterpart at Washington State University.

In fact, the Chronicle devotes an entire story to Washington, titled “For a Raise, Try Looking in the Evergreen State.”

According to the list, Emmert’s compensation for the year ending June 30 was nearly $888,000. That put him second at public universities, behind only his one-time mentor, E. Gordon Gee, of Ohio State University.

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Floyd ranked 17th among public-university leaders but was ascending rapidly. “His 2007-8 compensation, $623,000, did not include a $125,000 raise he received in August, which would make him the country’s sixth-highest-compensated public-university president,” the Chronicle wrote.

The Chronicle story does not include another benefit: if Floyd stays until 2012, he gets a $500,000 retention bonus.

And Emmert’s numbers do not include his side jobs, which earn him an additional $340,000 a year.

Emmert this year quietly accepted two board positions at local Fortune 500 companies. The first, for freight company Expeditors International, pays $200,000 a year in stock.

The second, for Weyerhaeuser, pays $140,000 annually — $70,000 a year in cash and $70,000 in stock that Emmert can cash in after leaving the board.

The “sibling rivalry” between the two Washington universities appears to be working to the advantage of the presidents, the Chronicle reported.

Fran Forgette, chairman of the WSU regents, told the Chronicle the university had looked at Emmert’s salary package when deciding on Floyd’s raise.

Floyd’s compensation — with a base salary now double that of his predecessor, V. Lane Rawlins, who retired last year — is raising some eyebrows.

“The University of Washington is a huge enterprise. Washington State has excellent programs but is not in the same category,” Raymond D. Cotton, a lawyer who has negotiated contracts for university presidents, told the Chronicle. “They’re sort of like Avis. They have to try harder, but it’s where they want to get.”

The story noted there has been little rancor in Washington over the high salaries, despite state budget trimming that will force cuts of $10 million at the UW and $6 million at WSU this year.

Floyd has recently come under fire for failing to independently check the references of the man he picked to be his No. 2 at WSU: Steven Hoch, who was stripped of his provost’s title in October after disagreements with top WSU administrators and a physical altercation in a hallway.

Hoch’s contract allows him to return as a history professor earning about $245,000, or 9/11ths of his provost’s salary. WSU has assigned him to the Tri-Cities campus, where he is to start teaching in January.

The Chronicle reported that overall, the median pay and benefits of presidents at 184 public research universities rose 7.6 percent in 2007-08, to an average $427,400. Those raises came before the worst of the economic turmoil hit; since then, a handful of college leaders have handed back bonuses or turned down raises.

Among those was former UW President Richard McCormick, now president of Rutgers University. When he got a $100,000 performance bonus during the summer, McCormick pledged the same amount of his own money for financial aid. The big-pay packets — coupled with rising tuition and tight student aid — are stirring concerns on Capitol Hill.

“The Chronicle’s study shows that the executive suite seems insulated from budget crunches,” said U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “In these hard economic times, apparently belt-tightening is for families and students, not university presidents.”

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

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