Compensation for next UF president may top $1M


An aerial view of parts of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville on Dec. 8, 2011.

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Published: Monday, July 7, 2014 at 10:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 7, 2014 at 10:34 p.m.

To get the interest of the best presidential candidates in today's competitive market, the University of Florida would have to offer a total compensation package of $950,000 to $1.25 million, a consultant told members of a search subcommittee Monday.

Members of the compensation subcommittee agreed with the presentation made by Stephen Pollack of the Mercer consulting group during a conference call, and voted unanimously to send the recommendation on to the search committee and board of trustees for approval today.

"These are the numbers you need to look at today," Pollack said. "These are tough and complex jobs that need to be compensated at a level they'd want to take over these responsibilities."

Bill Heavener, chairman of the subcommittee, said Mercer did a professional job defining what the current national market is like right now for someone to lead a public research university with several professional colleges and a medical school.

"It's a complicated job we're looking for, and that is the market we're in," Heavener said.

The market compensation range will serve as a baseline to help the board during recruiting and negotiations with any finalist chosen. Ultimately, what the person selected gets will be based on their experience, skills and other factors.

Steve Scott, who chairs the search committee and is chairman of the board of trustees, said he has seen a generational change in college and university presidents, with one generation retiring or close to it and another generation coming up through the ranks.

"The expectations now are much different," Scott said.

Pollack and his partner Jayna Patel looked at 12 peer institutions in the Association of American Universities — seven public and five private. UF is the only Florida university, public or private, in that 62-member organization.

All the institutions compared are top level research institutions with multiple professional schools, including a medical school, and with broad academic offerings and athletic programs. Some are land-grant universities. Public schools included Ohio State, Penn State and the University of Michigan, while private institutions included Cornell, Harvard and Northwestern.

"Some we consider to be our peers; others we aspire to be," said Paula Fussell, vice president for human resources.

The institutions were also chosen for their similarities to UF in budget, student population, faculty and staff size, and research dollars. UF has a $4.4 billion operating budget with 41,000 employees and about 50,000 students. It has a research budget close to $700 million.

Pollack noted that three of the public schools — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan — had all hired new presidents this year, giving the most up-to-date compensation data available. Both OSU and Penn State offered compensation packages above $1.2 million, while Michigan offered its new president $900,000.

"This reinforces the idea that the trend for public presidents is on the rise," Pollack said.

Fussell said UF got a great deal with Bernie Machen, UF's 11th president, who will step down by the end of this year.

Even with the $320,000 bonus the board of trustees gave him for agreeing to stay on through 2014, Machen's $720,000 current compensation package puts him in the 25th percentile based on the latest information provided by Pollack.

"We're not going to be able to offer what we're currently offering," Fussell said.

Other things taken into consideration in the compensation package included housing, car allowance, health and retirement benefits and life insurance. Seventy-five percent of the schools examined provide either a car or car allowance, while 82 percent provide a house.

UF is spending $5 million on a new president's mansion for the next president of UF.

Search consultant Jan Greenwood mentioned that other factors affecting the current market range for president pay include that the applicant pool is aging and those willing to move is limited, and that UF is competing with at least seven other presidential searches.

That increase in public presidents' pay has been steady over time, Pollack said, and is compensation for the kinds of problems they must deal with — cost pressure and budget pressure.

"Consider the type of person you need to handle the complexity and the constituents," he said. "Those are major factors in defining compensation."

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