The Chronicle publishes its president compensation rankings annually, but the economic crisis made a few other numbers stand out.
"Our feeling was that, in looking through the 990 (tax) forms this was based on, there were a lot of other eye-popping salaries," Selingo said.
When the University of Pennsylvania learned that Dr. Arthur Rubenstein, executive vice president and dean of the school of medicine, was ranked No. 4 on the list, they called the Chronicle to complain.
Susan Phillips, senior vice president and chief of staff for Penn medicine, said she thought the ranking was unfair, especially in this economic climate.
Rubenstein was listed with a total compensation of more than $3.3 million, but Phillips said that's only because he had a mandatory distribution of his pension when he turned 70. His salary for that year, she said, was just over $1.8 million.
"I personally wonder about the purpose," she said of the Chronicle's report. "I think that it has no bearing on the work that is provided."
Ron Sauder, vice president of communications at Emory University, noted that the No. 3 ranking of Dr. Michael Johns, executive vice president of health affairs, was largely based on an 11-year deferred compensation payment.
Johns, who is now the university's chancellor, was paid a salary of $335,000 that year, Sauder said. While Sauder said he didn't find Johns' spot on the list misleading, he did note that the deferred compensation accounted for $3.4 million of the more than $3.7 million in compensation that nabbed him the third-highest ranking.
But he agreed that there is "intense competition" for professors and administrators in the medical field who not only have the expertise, but also the judgment to run such a massive program.
Johns' ranking, he said, "certainly shows that Emory competes successfully for some of the best talent in the country."
In an e-mailed statement, a spokesman with the New York University Langone Medical Center -- referring to Dr. James Grifo, the center's program director of the NYU Fertility Center -- wrote that his earnings are appropriate. Grifo placed No. 10 on the list with nearly $2.4 million.
"Clinical medical school faculty are often compensated on a different basis than non-clinical faculty. Dr. Grifo's compensation reflects the direct medical care he provides to patients and does not come from tuition," the statement read. "As a nationally recognized infertility expert, his salary is commensurate with his expertise and the specialized care he provides to his patients."
Attempts were made to reach everyone on the Chronicle's top 10 list. No individual that was personally ranked responded.
Other than NYU, Emory University and the University of Pennsylvania, no other institution would comment on the report. Columbia University and the University of Southern California issued statements saying they don't comment on individual compensation.
Eight of the employees in the Chronicle's top 10 work in the medical field. Selingo said that reflects a growing demand for highly specialized fields of study, most notably infertility.
It's these doctors that bring in a consistent and healthy revenue stream for the college in the form of research money, patients, surgery fees and the like. And colleges, Curtis said, often expect their doctors to raise enough revenue to cover their own salaries through such measures.