Texas officials top list of highest-paid US university executives

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UT’s president and the UT System chancellor are the second- and third-highest paid public university executives in the country, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In total take-home pay for fiscal year 2009-10, System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa earned $750,000 and President William Powers Jr. earned $746,738. According to the survey of 185 officials nation-wide, the median take-home pay was $375,442. Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee topped the list and was the only official to earn more than $1 million, with earnings of $1,323,911 in 2009-10.

These figures include base salary, bonuses and deferred compensation payments in which the University withholds and invests a portion of the total pay and returns the money and any earnings at a predetermined time.

Both Powers and Cigarroa declined to comment on their own salaries.

Ben Bond, chair of Staff Council and a training specialist in the Red McCombs School of Business, said to attract effective leaders the UT System has to provide adequate compensation, but many staff see the high executive salaries as incompatible with other efforts to trim the budget.

“It is difficult for University employees to face ongoing layoffs while not seeing temporary salary reduction by those who can most afford it,” Bond said.

The UT System Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the governor, sets the pay for both officials. The board’s chairman said in a statement that, because of the complexity, multi-billion dollar budgets and high-profile nature of UT Austin and the UT System, the Board is satisfied that the current salaries are appropriate.

“Each position requires an individual of extraordinary talent and the market for such talent is very competitive,” said chairman Gene Powell. “In addition, the board feels very fortunate that the overwhelming portion of these two compensation packages is supported by endowment and gift funds and thus do not come from general revenue funds.”

Regents do not receive salaries for their service on the board.

Matt Flores, UT System assistant director of public affairs, said endowments dedicated to the purpose and returns on investments from other donations fund the president’s and chancellor’s salaries because state law limits the amount of appropriated state funds a public university can pay officials to close to $70,000.

Flores said Cigarroa has received no pay increases in his two years at the System. In his first year, Cigarroa implemented a pay freeze for top executives, including himself and all the presidents within the System, and though he was eligible for an increase in his second year, he made it clear to the board he would not accept one, Flores said.

William Lasher, professor emeritus of educational administration, said without outside funds, it is almost impossible for university governing boards to hire a quality CEO.

“These jobs are 24-hour, seven-day-a-week jobs with almost overwhelming CEO responsibilities,” Lasher said.


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