The University of Wisconsin is once again placed at the bottom of the list of Big Ten chief executive compensations, according to a survey released by The Chronicle for Higher Education.

According to the report, former UW Chancellor John Wiley was paid $358,745 in total compensation for the 2007-08 fiscal years, which is $396,255 less than the highest paid chief executive in the Big Ten at Ohio State University but still $17,250 more than he was awarded the previous fiscal year.

“I think across the University of Wisconsin System we have historically been below the median in terms of chancellor compensation,” Board of Regents Vice President Chuck Pruitt said. “We have been trying over the last three to four years in particular to look at that issue, and we’ve been trying to do modest increases because we recognize obviously now the difficult economic times we’re facing.”

The study consisted of 152 public universities with total enrollments of more than 10,000 students. The institutions were required to fit the specifications of research or doctoral-research universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

UW System spokesperson David Giroux said when the university hired Chancellor Biddy Martin the regents made a “conscious” decision to pay her at the midpoint of her peers. Martin currently makes $437,000 annually at UW, which is approximately $97,488 less than what she pulled in at Cornell University in 2005-06.

“If we look at Chancellor Santiago at UW-Milwaukee, I’m not sure if he’s even at the midpoint,” Giroux said. “But the board has been working methodically over the past several years to gradually bring our executive compensation up.”

UW System President Kevin Reilly and his wife announced they would donate all of his recent salary increase of $70,000 to need-based financial aid scholarships for UW System students set up through a fund he previously set up through the UW Foundation, Giroux said.

But Giroux added being positioned at the bottom of peer institutions in terms of chief executive compensation puts not only UW at risk of losing talented professionals, but the rest of the system as well.

“That talent may be lost in the laboratory, that talent may be lost in our classrooms, that talent may be lost in our boardrooms,” Giroux said. “But lost talent is lost talent, and we need to recognize that when we lose people or don’t compete effectively that has an impact on our students and our campuses.”

While Pruitt said compensation is a key aspect to attracting and retaining premier faculty and leaders, he added other factors play a part.

Pruitt said quality of institution and faculty, superiority of the administrative leadership, location of the institution, degree of research the institution provides and support from alumni are all vital elements that allow the university to succeed.

“I don’t think the compensation has any direct effect on the students. I think what has the direct effect on students is the quality of the chancellors,” Pruitt added. “Despite the fact that our compensation does not rank among the top, we have terrific chancellors. I think that’s the most important thing.”