Graham B. Spanier, the former president of Pennsylvania State University who was forced to resign in 2011, was the highest-paid public university president in the country that year, according to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education released Sunday.

Spanier, forced out amid a child-sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, received $2.9 million in total compensation during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to the report, including $1.2 million in severance pay.

His total compensation was nearly $400,000 more than that of any other public university president, the report said, and the severance pay alone would have ranked him in the top five.

Penn State officials disclosed Spanier's compensation in November 2012. They said at the time that his severance pay was mandated as part of his contract, since he was dismissed "without cause."

Lisa Powers, director of Penn State's department of public information, said in an e-mail Sunday that "these figures are not new" and that "no one should be surprised" by them.

Spanier's dismissal in November 2011 came as details about Sandusky emerged. He was forced out at the same time as head football coach Joe Paterno. John P. Surma, vice chairman of the university board of trustees, said at the time that a change was needed "to deal with the difficult issues that we are facing."

Sandusky was later convicted of molesting 10 boys and sentenced to at least 30 years in prison.

Late last year, Spanier and two other Penn State administrators were charged with perjury, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children.

Prosecutors allege that he, former athletic director Tim Curley, and former university vice president Gary Schultz covered up allegations against Sandusky.

E-mails unearthed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh show Spanier, Schultz, and Curley communicating about Sandusky as far back as 1998. Prosecutors say the e-mails prove Spanier knew about Sandusky's misconduct and did nothing to report it. Spanier has said he was unaware of any sexual misconduct by Sandusky.

Spanier, Curley, and Schultz are awaiting trial.

Spanier was once one of the country's most highly regarded university presidents, and his compensation was among the nation's highest before the scandal, according to Jack Stripling, a Chronicle reporter who covers university leadership.

"Even if you take away all the bells and whistles, Dr. Spanier's base pay of $660,000 in 2010-11 was more than all but three other public college presidents in the country," Stripling wrote in an e-mail.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a national higher-education organization, said that Spanier was long regarded as an adept manager of a complex institution.

"Running Penn State is a huge challenge," he said, alluding to the school's 96,000 students and 24 campuses. Spanier's compensation "would have reflected that," Hartle added.

According to the Chronicle report, Spanier was one of four public college presidents who earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2011-2012.

The others were Auburn University president Jay Gogue, who earned $2.5 million; E. Gordon Gee, of Ohio State University, who earned about $1.9 million; and Alan G. Merten, former president of George Mason University, who also earned about $1.9 million. Merten retired in June 2012.

Several other local presidents were also among the top earners: University of Delaware president Patrick T. Harker earned $735,681 and ranked 14th, and Ann Weaver Hart of Temple University earned $688,073 and ranked 20th.

University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann was the 12th-highest paid president of a private college or university, according to a previous Chronicle report, released in December 2012. Her total compensation was about $1.5 million.

The report about public schools included 212 presidents at 191 public colleges, the Chronicle said.

Total compensation, as defined by the report, included base pay, bonus pay, severance pay, deferred compensation, and retirement pay.

Spanier became's Penn State's president in 1995. When Penn State's trustees fired Spanier, they cited his "insufficient action" in dealing with Sandusky. But they chose not to fire him for cause, which would have denied him his severance payment but might have prompted Spanier to sue to collect the money.

Even without the severance, Spanier's compensation package exceeded Paterno's salary.

According to the Associated Press, Paterno was earning a salary of about $1 million, and earned a pension of $13.4 million for his 61 years of coaching.