The club of private college and university presidents earning seven figures is getting less exclusive. Thirty presidents received more than $1 million in pay and benefits in 2008, according to an analysis of federal tax forms by The Chronicle of Higher Education. More than 1 in 5 chief executives at the 448 institutions surveyed topped $600,000.

The club of private college and university presidents earning seven figures is getting less exclusive.

Thirty presidents received more than $1 million in pay and benefits in 2008, according to an analysis of federal tax forms by The Chronicle of Higher Education. More than 1 in 5 chief executives at the 448 institutions surveyed topped $600,000.

Most of the pay packages were negotiated before the full force of the recession. But even if the numbers dip slightly in next year's survey, executive pay is expected to keep climbing over the long term as colleges compete for top talent. And schools are rewarding executives while raising tuition, exposing themselves to criticism.

At large research universities, the median pay was $760,774; it was $387,923 at liberal arts colleges and $352,257 at undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities.

The highest paid executive in the Chronicle survey was Bernard Lander, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and sociologist who founded Touro College in New York in 1970. He died in February at 94.

Lander received a compensation package of nearly $4.8 million. In a statement, the college said $4.2 million of that was retroactive pay and benefits awarded after an outside consultant determined Lander had been "severely underpaid."

Several deals reported in the Chronicle survey, which covers the most recent available data, included deferred compensation or other unusual circumstances. Comparisons to past years aren't possible because of changes in how data is reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Colleges were asked to report salaries by calendar year instead of fiscal year as in the past, so most dollar amounts overlap with what was reported the previous year.

Another change: Perks including first-class air travel, country club dues and housing now are included in reported pay.

In 2007-2008, 23 presidents received more than $1 million. As recently as 2004, no college president had broken the seven-figure threshold.