University execs’ pay increases

Over two years, the collective salaries of seven University VPs increased by about $430k.

Benjamin Farniok

After the school committed to cut costs, some top-level University of Minnesota executives are receiving increased salaries.
According to information requested by the Pioneer Press, seven of the University’s vice presidents saw an almost $430,000 increase to their collective salaries over the last several years. The school says it’s trying to stay competitive, though one regent says the salaries are cause for concern.
According to the data, seven University vice presidents received a total of $1,864,693 across their positions in 2012. Two years later the total for the same positions was $2,293,946.
In 2013, the University promised the state Legislature it would reduce costs by $90 million after a Wall Street Journal article called the administration bloated.
Alan Benson, an assistant professor in the work and organizations department of the Carlson School of Management, said market forces are the major factor in determining how the University pays its top-level employees.
Basing salaries on other schools’ levels is outlined in University policy.
Industry salary norms are also considered, especially for doctors or business experts that may be attractive to private businesses. Benson said administrative costs and salaries at universities across the country have increased over the last 30 years.
“Universities do a lot of things they used to not do, and that requires a lot of administrators,” he said, pointing to new emphases on athletics and undergraduate education.
Regent Richard Beeson said the Board approves the salaries of senior level employees but generally doesn’t deal with salary beyond hiring.
The administrative costs that the University has pledged to cut have continued to go down, which he said is more important for the board.
“We really try to keep separate the governing issues versus the management issues,” he said.
High wages for University executives could lead to problems like higher tuition, Regent Darrin Rosha said. He said the high wages worry him.
“I think the Board should treat every dollar as though it were our own money,” Rosha said.
The state Legislature has little power when dealing with the individual wages, said Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls. The Legislature often only gets involved when appropriating money to the University.
A statement from the University’s Office of Human Resources said salaries are negotiated when people are hired, but performance can warrant additional raises.
The school reviews its executive salaries against peers identified by the Office of Institutional Research, according to the statement.
“There has been no coordinated initiative to increase executive salaries across the board,” the statement said.
Nornes said he believes the University does what it must to keep the school competitive, adding that the school still has questions to answer when dealing with such large sums.
“It is important to make sure [the University is] getting their money’s worth,” he said.