Salaries skyrocket for college presidents

3:23 PM, May 1, 2007   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - $486,251.

$584,004.

$689,500.

Those are big bucks, and they are rising. They're the salaries of the presidents of some of Florida's public universities.

While campus faculty salaries rose 5 percent over the past 10 years, the salaries from university presidents rose 35 percent.

"We wanted to retain good performance. We wanted to reward excellent performance. And we wanted to make sure we were in the right range," says Rhea Law, Chairman of the USF Board of Trustees. That Board just gave USF President Judy Genshaft a compensation package worth $486,251 a year.

Law admits it is a lot of money, "But you've got to pay for excellence."

Genshaft's contract also gives her a $300,000 retention bonus, a deal for up to three years of severance pay if she is fired, membership in Tampa Palms County Club and the University Club, as well as tuition to a state university for her two children and six months' sabbatical for every five-year contract she completes.

"That's outrageous, that's crazy," says USF student Michael Hart. And while USF students may think it is crazy, it's typical of the deal college presidents get in this state.

The UCF president makes $689,500; UF's president $584,004; Florida International's president makes $554,487; FSU's head $477,000; and Florida Atlantic's presidents $405,462.

And most of these presidents are eligible for performance bonuses.

"We want [President Genshaft] to do an excellent job, and that's what those bonuses are for," says Law.

As the salaries of the public university presidents -- which used to be considered a public service job -- continue to spiral out of control, the Florida Legislature decided it had to do something to reign those salaries in. So it passed a law limiting the amount of public money that could be paid to the presidents as $225,000. But the universities found a way to get around that.

Universities raise extra money for the salaries from private sources, such as the USF Foundation, which solicits gifts from donors. Some educators criticize the practice, because of concern the university might be influenced by a donor's agenda.

USF Foundation fundraiser John Scott says the university wouldn't take money from a donor who wanted to influence the school's direction. But USF, like most other colleges, won't look a gift donor in the mouth. We asked Scott if he has ever turned down cold hard cash, and he told us he can't remember.

But right now, students find it remarkable their college presidents are making so much.

"Parking has gone up every year, tuition has gone up every year," says senior Fazad Karkuvandei. "I haven't received any financial aid of any sort. The people who are making money are making more money. The people spending money are spending more money."

We asked Law if she sees and end in sight, or if college presidents will soon be making a million dollars a year.

"That would be pretty remarkable," Law responds.

As competition grows for college presidents, that million-dollar compensation package seems to be much closer than most want to admit.


Mike Deeson,Tampa Bay's 10 News

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