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Home away: Most college leaders live off campus on taxpayer dime

Having a home on campus has become less common for the leaders of Ohio’s public universities but their employers are still helping to pay their mortgages.

In Ohio, university presidents are the highest paid public employees living in government subsidized housing. In recent years, area universities have shifted from offering their presidents a pad on campus to helping them pay for a home of their choosing.

» RELATED: Bonus potential for new WSU president part of growing trend

Wright State University’s Cheryl Schrader is the school’s first president to have never resided on campus. Former president David Hopkins lived in the university’s Rockafield House for around a year or so, officials said.

Schrader receives an annual housing stipend of $36,000, which is in line with most other presidents. It was something Wright State trustees considered a necessity in order to compete with what other colleges offer, said Doug Fecher, chairman of the WSU board of trustees who also led the school’s presidential search last year.

“We did offer a housing stipend…I think the trend is moving away from homes,” Fecher said. “It was all based on our market assessment and what it would take to get a qualified and competent president to the university.”

Schrader is not alone though. University of Cincinnati’s Neville Pinto receives $48,000 per year for a housing stipend while Central State University pays around $51,600 per year for a home in Beavercreek Twp. for president Cynthia Jackson-Hammond. CSU would not say if Jackson’Hammond’s housing situation has changed since 2015.

» RELATED: Nearly two-thirds of 2016 Ohio college grads have student debt

Though the housing stipends are becoming more common, leaders in higher education have warned of a backlash the job perks could incite.

“I think universities are pushing the limit of what the public finds acceptable,” Richard Vedder, director of Ohio University’s center for college affordability and productivity has said. “I think they’ll run into some trouble on that somewhere down the road.”

Ohio University became the subject of extra scrutiny in 2015 when the school considered purchasing a new $1.2 million home for its then-president after his wife broke her ankle and needed a residence that was handicap accessible. The school never purchased the home and its latest leader, who was appointed in February, receives a housing stipend of $60,000 per year.

The presidents of Miami University and Ohio State University are the only two area public college leaders who still live in houses owned by their institutions. Wittenberg, a private university in Springfield, houses its president in a home built in the 1800s.

» RELATED: Wright State makes a list that’s good news for area military families

Miami’s “Lewis Place” has been the home of the school’s presidents since the early 1900s while the “Pizzuti House” was donated to Ohio State in 2000. Ohio State invested around $2 million in renovations of the donated mansion.

Two area private universities have stayed the course by continuing to offer traditional presidential homes like OSU and Miami. Wittenberg University’s president resides in the campus’s “Benjamin Prince House,” which was built sometime between 1857 and 1860, according to the school.

RELATED: OSU president expenses in the millions

The University of Dayton in 2015 spent $1.55 million home at 1477 Ridgeway Road in Oakwood, just a couple miles from campus. Events hosted at the home have received attention in recent years because of parking complaints from Oakwood residents.

At schools that now offer their leaders a housing stipend, the previous presidential residencies have been sold, transformed or forgotten.

» RELATED: Ohio named a top 10 destination in U.S. for international students

UC sold its presidential house in 2013 and then created a student scholarship program with the profits. Central State’s former presidential house has since become a home for Fulbright scholars at the school, said spokeswoman Edwina Blackwell Clark.

Wright State’s house was transitioned to a campus alumni office in 2012 before it was damaged by a fallen tree. It would likely cost more to repair and bring it up to code than it would to demolish it so the building now sits empty while its fate remains in limbo, said Walt Branson, WSU’s vice president for finance and operations and chief business officer.

“We don’t really plan on investing anything in it,” Branson said. “It really isn’t cost effective to.”

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