More college presidents are earning annual compensation of $500,000 or more, fueled in part by stiff competition by schools for the best candidates, according to a study.

Some 112 of the 853 public and private university presidents surveyed said they had pay and benefits packages of more than half a million dollars, according to an annual report being published Monday in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The jump was more prominent among public university presidents, rising from 23 last year to 42. The median pay package for those leaders is now $374,846, about 4 percent higher than last year's median of $360,000.

The median is the middle point, with half above and half below.

Private school presidents continued to be higher paid, however. Seventy of those leaders earned more than $500,000 last year.

Audrey K. Doberstein, retired president of Wilmington College in Delaware, topped the list with a compensation package totaling $2.7 million; much of it represented one-time payments upon her retirement.

Doberstein was followed by Donald E. Ross, retired president of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., ($1.3 million) and Vanderbilt's E. Gordon Gee ($1.2 million).

David P. Roselle of the University of Delaware is the highest-paid public university president this year, receiving $979,571 in pay and benefits.

He is followed by Purdue University's Martin C. Jischke ($880,950), Mark A. Emmert of the University of Washington ($752,700), and J. Bernard Machen of the University of Florida ($751,725).

The survey attributed the pay increases to increased competition for top candidates, who are seeking more money amid growing job duties and a move toward more "corporate-style" management at universities.