Most workers haven't seen big pay increases lately -- much less raises of up to 42 percent.

But college presidents in the Washington area have.

Amid the tough economy and rising tuition rates, university leaders are raking in ever larger salaries and benefits packages. Most Washington-area university presidents received sizable increases in total compensationlast year, according to their most recent tax forms.

Georgetown University's president, John DeGioia, for instance, received $911,613 in total compensation for fiscal 2009, according to tax forms filed by the school. That's a 42 percent increase from his pay of $642,582 reported on the 2008 tax form.

Other double-digit rises include 37 percent for Catholic University's David O'Connell and a 14.3 percent for Trinity University's Patricia McGuire.

Those jumps in pay are reason for concern, some education experts say.

High salaries can be frustrating to parents struggling to pay tuition, said Jim Boyle, president of Arlington advocacy group College Parents of America. "They're watching more closely where their dollars are going."

Highly paid presidents, Boyle added, can drive up personnel costs by putting pressure on universities to raise salaries for other administrators and faculty.

Rises in total compensation -- which includes salary, benefits and deferred pay -- are often the result of benefits that accrue as presidents remain on the job.

DeGioia's increase, for example, primarily comes from $150,000 allocated to a retirement annuity.

Such deferred pay agreements are common for college presidents, said Jim Moss, managing director of PRM Consulting and an expert on compensation at nonprofits. At George Mason University, an increase in President Alan Merten's deferred benefits pushed his compensation up 10.5 percent, to $624,125. Merten didn't take an increase in base salary in 2009 because "no state employee has had a salary increase in three years," said J. Thomas Hennessey, Merten's chief of staff.

And benefits sometimes cause big outcries. Last year, American University President Cornelius Kerwin made $760,774. That was a 46 percent drop -- but only because he received a lump-sum payout of $800,000 in 2008, in addition to his salary. That year, his total compensation was $1.4 million. The amount caused a fuss, recalled mathematics professor Virginia Stalling, a past president of the faculty senate.

Jordan Coughenour, who will be a junior at American in the fall, said Kerwin's salary is "definitely higher than I expected" and it "seems off" amid campus concerns about rising tuition.

Of course, salaries are relative. Rick Pitino, coach of the University of Louisville Cardinals men's basketball team in Kentucky, earns an annual salary of $2.5 million a year. And Bob Stoops, Oklahoma University's football coach, earned $4.3 million in total compensation in 2009, the highest in college football, according to USA Today.

Bob Corrigan, a Charleston, S.C., parent of a Georgetown student, said college presidents earn their salaries.

"We live in a state where the football coach gets three million a year and can't deliver a winner," he wrote in an e-mail.

Universities attributed presidential compensation increases to housing-value calculations and contract negotiations. Catholic University President David O'Connell's reported compensation jumped 37 percent. That's because the university updated the market value of his on-campus housing, though no upgrades to the house were made, according to spokesman Victor Nakas.

O'Connell's base salary is paid to his religious order, the Congregation of the Mission, not to O'Connell himself.

Trinity President Patricia McGuire's pay rose 14.3 percent, a result of her first base salary increase in three years, spokeswoman Ann Pauley said.

An exception is University of Virginia President John Casteen, whose total pay dropped 2.9 percent in 2009. University governing boards, not the presidents, are responsible for high pay and raises, Boyle said.

"If they are offered large amounts of money to serve in their role, they have every right to accept those offers."

Correction: This article originally failed to note that Catholic University President David M. O'Connell's base salary is paid to his religious order, the Congregation of the Mission, not to O'Connell personally.

Presidential pay "> "> College President Fiscal 2009 compensation Fiscal 2008 compensation Percent change American University Cornelius Kerwin $1.4 million $760,774 -46.0 Catholic University David O'Connell $380,917 $521,929 37.0 Gallaudet University Robert Davila $560,615 $584,745 4.0 Georgetown University John DeGioia $642,582 $911,613 41.9 George Mason University Alan Merten 5$64,770 $624,125 10.5 George Washington University Steven Knapp $378,537 $983,801 ** Trinity University Patricia McGuire $191,557 $219,031 14.3 University of Maryland Dan Mote $463,213 $498,284 7.8 University of Virginia John Casteen $797,048 $773,648 -2.9 Sources: Tax forms, contracts ** Knapp became president in the middle of fiscal 2008.