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State board gives initial approval to presidential salary hikes

MINOT State Board of Higher Education members today gave initial approval to a new compensation plan that will raise presidential salaries at the state's two research universities by roughly $100,000 over the next three years.

MINOT State Board of Higher Education members today gave initial approval to a new compensation plan that will raise presidential salaries at the state's two research universities by roughly $100,000 over the next three years.

The new plan also requires advance state board approval for supplemental salary payments made by university foundations to their schools' presidents.

The state board approved a first reading of the compensation plan at a meeting today at Minot State University. The policy requires two readings for official passage.

The new plan establishes pay ranges for North Dakota's college presidents based on salaries received by presidents at those schools' peer institutions. The most recent version of those ranges would set the salaries for presidents at UND and North Dakota State University between $290,000 and $325,000 annually.

The board's vice president, Richie Smith, said he could not support the proposed salary ranges unless more heft was given to differences in the number of students, employees and academic program at North Dakota schools. The current ranges divide North Dakota University System schools into four categories, one each for research universities, master's degree-granting universities, bachelor's degree-granting universities, and two-year colleges.


Smith voted no on a separate motion to tentatively approve the ranges for use in presidential searches at UND, Dickinson State University and Lake Region State College.

Valley City State University President Ellen Chaffee urged the board to consider a "parallel initiative" to raise faculty salaries across the university system over the next several years, noting the inequity of paying presidents a median wage, while paying faculty significantly less than the median range.

North Dakota faculty are regularly ranked among the lowest paid in the nation.

Chancellor Bill Goetz has said he hopes to make increasing faculty salaries a priority over the next few years.

If the board approves the new salary ranges, it will be required to pay newly hired presidents initial salaries within that range and to raise sitting presidents' salaries to within the range by July 1, 2010.

Board member Duaine Espegard, Grand Forks, raised again a suggestion to cap the total amount of salary presidents may receive from either the state or their schools' foundation. Espegard first made that recommendation at a compensation task force meeting Wednesday night.

UND President Charles Kupchella and NDSU President Joseph Chapman both currently earn $212,000 annually from the state, but both presidents receive supplemental deferred compensation from their universities' foundations. Kupchella has effectively received $50,000 in deferred compensation annually for the past two years. Chapman receives $150,000 in annual deferred compensation.

Espegard suggested broadening the range of acceptable compensation to a maximum of $360,000 or more at the state's two research universities and inserting a clause stating that foundations may not supplement presidents pay so that it passes the top of the range.


That would ensure that Chapman, who currently receives about $362,000 in total compensation, doesn't take a pay cut, Espegard said, and also ensure that the state pays the lion's share of a president's salary.

Chapman declined to comment on the foundation pay discussion, but said he'd abide by whatever the board decides to do. Kupchella was not at the state board meeting because he is on a university-related trip to Kyrgyzstan.

Espegard's suggestion did not win popular support, based in part on the fact that the recommended salary ranges are based only on presidents' base salary at peer institutions, not on pay they may be receiving from their universities' foundations.

Jon Backes, a board member from Minot, said the board would do better to check foundation payments on an individual basis as it reviews individual requests.

The board will likely take final action on the compensation plan and ranges at its meeting in October or November.

Reach Marks at jmarks@gfherald.com .

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