COMPENSATION for private-college presidents has continued to drift upward, while the number crossing the $1 million barrier - a signal of prestige, and a magnet for criticism - has held steady at 36, according to a new survey.

The latest annual compilation by the Chronicle of Higher Education covers data from 2010, due to lag time in the release of federal tax information. That year, median compensation for the 494 presidents in the survey - leaders of institutions with budgets of at least $50 million - was $396,649, or 2.8 percent higher than in last year's survey. But median base salary fell slightly, by less than 1 percent.

The highest-paid was Bob Kerrey, who was president of the New School in New York until December 2010, before returning to Nebraska, where he made an unsuccessful run to return to the U.S Senate. Kerrey's total compensation was valued at just over $3 million.

The highest-paid in 2010 who remains on the job is Shirley Ann Jackson, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, who was No. 2 at $2.34 million.