The University of Nebraska is wrapping up its final week of public review before determining the NU system president, with a base salary range of $800,000 to $1.2 million being offered to the candidate.
When Hank Bounds left the presidency earlier this year, his base salary was $540,000, according to the Fiscal Year 2019-20 Personnel Roster from the Board of Regents. As the NU system looks to Walter “Ted” Carter as his potential successor, Carter could be given between a 48% to 122% increase in salary.
Compared to the other 13 Big Ten schools and base salaries from the 2018-19 fiscal year, this salary would be among the highest. The salary would land somewhere between the fifth highest-paid and the highest-paid base salary, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Robert Barchi, president of Rutgers University, earned $705,305 in base salary, and Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, earned $1,013,556 in base salary during the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to The Chronicle.
The Chronicle lists salary information collected from both public and private colleges and lists base, bonus and other pay for executives across the nation.
The NU system, unlike some other Big Ten schools, denotes most of the compensation to the base salary alone, not paying the president in bonuses and offering little in other pay and nontaxable benefits.
Compared to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the proposed salary would be more than any faculty member and second only to the salaries of assistant football coach Erik Chinander, Athletic Director Bill Moos, head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg and head football coach Scott Frost, according to the fiscal year 2019-20 salary records.
At the Board of Regents meeting on Oct. 25 and at the Nebraska Innovation Campus forum on Nov. 6, Ivy Harper, founder and director of Land Grant University Reform, raised questions about the salary increase.
Harper said she was concerned about the increase and the impact it could have on students. She asked Carter if he felt the salary increase was fair to students, but Jim Pillen, chairperson of the President Search Advisory Committee, said the question was not one for Carter but for the Board of Regents, who would make a decision on what is in the best interest of the state of Nebraska to attract the best global leader.
Board of Regents’ chairman Tim Clare said the landscape of higher education has changed, and the price tag for a system leader has gone up.
Clare said if the NU system wanted to attract the best, they had to be willing to pay. He said Rod McDavis, the managing principal of AGB Search, presented the Board of Regents with the necessary figures to attract the ideal candidate.
“If that’s what it costs, that’s what we’ve got to look to do,” Clare said.
He said a final figure has not been decided on, but if Carter is confirmed as president, the regents will discuss the salary and present a contract to Carter once the figure is agreed upon.
“When that time period comes to an end,” Clare said, “we’ll dig down and see if that’s something we want to pursue and then work out a number.”
The salary for the president is a formula comprised of different areas of funding, Clare said. In the past, the president had been offered benefits in addition to the base salary but some additional funds created confusion and have been eliminated. He said this leads to a cleaner, more transparent solution.
A combination of state appropriations and funding from the NU system foundation could pay for the salary, but, because a figure has not been finalized, Clare said he could not accurately say where the additional funds would come from.
Two-thirds of the cost of a student’s education is paid for by state appropriations, Clare said, and the other one-third is paid for by tuition. He said it is likely a little bit of tuition and state appropriations will go toward offsetting those costs.
The 30-day review period for Carter will officially be over on Sunday, Nov. 24, and the Board of Regents may confirm him to the position as the president-elect soon after. If the regents confirm Carter, they will propose and present a salary, potentially making Carter one of the top-paid executives in the Big Ten.
“To have a great leader, you’ve got to be willing to pay them,” Clare said. “If we don’t, somebody else will.”
This article was modified at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, to change the graphs from JPEG images to embedded code and again at 5:26 p.m. to update the readability of the "Chief executive compensation across Big Ten schools in 2018" chart.