Widespread attention to college tuition and student loan debt has resulted in increasing scrutiny of high levels of compensation for college and university administrators. Prior research has sought to identify a pay for performance relationship in executive compensation, but discovered no clear link between presidential salaries and performance measures. This study proposes u.S. News & world report college rankings as a highly meaningful performance metric and employs a fixed effects regression model to determine the relationship between college rankings and presidential salary. We find a significant relationship between rank and presidential salary at public universities, but not at private universities and liberal arts colleges, consistent with an academic capitalism model. 2018, Springer science+business media, llc, part of springer nature.