UT system executives receive pay raise

Alexa Ura

The University has reduced academic programs and laid off staff during the past three years, but this month the UT System Board of Regents awarded substantial raises to various executives, including all UT presidents.

Seven UT System executive officers and 15 presidents will receive millions of dollars in raises for the 2013 budget year, according to figures obtained by the Austin American-Statesman. Raises range from 1.6 percent to 21.5 percent increases and went into effect Sept. 1.

All UT System presidents received raises ranging from 1.6 percent to 10.8 percent. UT President William Powers Jr. is at the bottom of the list, but he remains the highest paid academic president in the UT System. Powers’ base salary increased to $674,350, according to the figures obtained by the Statesman. His take-home pay totals almost $150,000 more than his base salary.

Ronald DePinho, president of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, received a large increase, boosting his salary to $1,845,000 and maintaining his rank as the highest paid UT System president, the Statesman reported. Three presidents of UT health institutions earn more than $1 million.

Michael Redding, president of the Graduate Student Assembly and a Texas Student Media contract employee, said the raises are reminiscent of a corporation’s top-down system and detract from creating a university of the first class.

“Think how many scholarships and fellowships students won’t be getting because System administration has increased their own pay,” Redding said. “The next time System administrators complain about UT’s budget and affordability, they have to look at their own payroll first.”

The raises come on the heels of a new pay-for-performance incentive plan for System executives and presidents passed last month by the Board of Regents. Under the incentive plan, individuals can earn an additional 10 to 15 percent bonus if they meet certain performance goals. The incentive plan will begin in the 2014 budget year.

Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, UT System spokesperson, said UT regents implemented the salary raises after careful deliberation of market research, professional expertise of administrators and comparisons with peer organizations. In some cases, the salary increase was an equity issue, she said.

“The restructuring that took place upon Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s appointment as chancellor included a reduction in workforce at the UT System administration, which in turn meant some executives saw a significant increase in their scope of work and responsibilities,” LaCoste-Caputo said. “This restructuring, along with initiatives outlined in Chancellor Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence, are adding hundreds of millions of dollars of value to the System.”

LaCoste-Caputo said individuals who took on significant additional duties and responsibilities and were eligible for a one-time merit salary increase received raises.

Raises were implemented as part of the System’s 2013 budget, which is partially funded through the multibillion-dollar Permanent University Fund. The Permanent University Fund is a state endowment funded by investments of revenue from leases of state-owned land, and UT regents have access to the fund when budgeting for the System.

UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said UT-Austin has worked hard to serve students, maintain academic excellence and improve levels of efficiency despite shrinking state funding and other budget pressures during the past few years.

University colleges and schools reduced or merged academic programs and began staff layoffs in 2009.

Susswein said executive salaries and raises were appropriated through the UT System and not the University. The University implemented an average of 2 percent salary raises for faculty and staff last month by shifting funds within college and department budgets during a five-year planning process.

Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, said the regents’ decision seems hypocritical.

“You have institutions being told to cut back programs, increase burdens on students and limit opportunities for them, yet at the same time the System is increasing its number of employees and giving substantial pay [raises],” Morton said.

Morton, who has been involved in the “Invest in Texas” campaign, which was created to organize students to lobby the Texas Legislature to adequately fund UT, said cuts to higher education make it difficult for the University to achieve goals and continue to grow with the constant rhetoric of efficiency looming overhead.

“From a perspective where you’re looking from the outside in, this doesn’t seem to match up,” Morton said.