The president of Pennsylvania State University is among the highest-paid public-college presidents in the nation, ranked fifth in total cost of employment by the Chronicle of Higher Education in a report released Sunday.

Graham B. Spanier, who has criticized Gov. Corbett's plan to slash state spending on colleges, had a total cost of employment of $800,592 in fiscal 2010: a $620,004 salary, deferred compensation of $157,828, and retirement contributions of $22,760, according to the report. The costs of his car allowance, house, and club dues were not included.

In the survey of 185 public colleges, Spanier trailed only the presidents of Ohio State University, the University of Washington, the University of Texas system, and the University of Central Florida.

Highly paid college presidents in states with dire budget problems, like Pennsylvania, "walk a difficult political tightrope," the higher-education journal said. "They must at once argue that their state budgets have been cut to the bone and need to be restored, while at the same time acknowledging their rarefied personal financial circumstances in states where layoffs, program closures, and pay reductions have been all too common."

Bill Mahon, vice president of university relations for Penn State, said Spanier's "compensation is set by the university's board of trustees with advice from a consultant familiar with national executive compensation." Mahon noted that "our current difficult financial outlook occurred only four weeks ago," with the release of Corbett's proposed budget, which called for cutting annual state funding for Penn State roughly in half, to $165.1 million.

Penn State's budget is about $4 billion a year. The university had sought about $364 million in state support for the fiscal year that will start July 1.

"President Spanier is president of one of the largest schools in the nation and is president over 24 different campuses," Mahon said. "Enrollment has grown by 14,000 students over the past 10 years, and other key indicators of his performance have been similarly strong."

Mahon said Spanier's salary had been frozen last year, along with the pay of other university employees, "and he will share in the freeze announced for this summer as well."

Spanier and his wife, Mahon said, have donated more than a million dollars to Penn State.

Spanier told legislators last month that Corbett's proposed cut "could fundamentally change Penn State and our sister institutions in the state and have major negative impacts" for Pennsylvania citizens.

He said the budget proposal would force the university to "put everything on the table."

The Chronicle of Higher Education report said, "As more college employees are forced to take pay cuts, some presidents have taken steps to demonstrate that they're sharing in the sacrifice."

It cited Ohio State's E. Gordon Gee, the highest-paid public-university president, who donated his $296,786 bonus to pay for scholarships and other university efforts; University of Missouri president Gary Forsee, who declined a $100,000 performance bonus; Washington State University president Elson Floyd, who took a $100,000 salary cut; and chief executives in the University of California system, whose salaries were reduced 10 percent.

The median total cost of employment for the 185 presidents in 2009-10 was $440,487, the report said. That measured the amount spent by the institution and the state to employ the president and included base pay, bonuses, deferred compensation, retirement pay, and, in many cases, housing and car allowances.

Temple University president Ann Weaver Hart had a total cost of employment of $707,947 for the period, including base pay of $535,903 and a $70,000 bonus, the report said.

Richard L. McCormick, president of the Rutgers University system, had a total cost of employment of $593,800, including base pay of $550,000, according to the report.

Patrick T. Harker, president of the University of Delaware, had a total cost of employment of $726,307. He ranked seventh among public-college presidents in total compensation, with a salary of $598,682 and a $100,000 bonus, the Chronicle said.

David Brond, vice president for communications and marketing at the University of Delaware, said Harker's pay was a recognition of "his performance since 2007," when he came to the university.

Brond cited improving academic credentials for incoming freshmen, growth in fund-raising, extensive construction, and successful partnerships with local, state, and global organizations.

The report is available online at http://chronicle.com/presidentialpay