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Ohio State Presidential Search Nearing $300,000

COLUMBUS Ohio—The search for the next president of Ohio State University is on track to cost more than $300,000, about a third of which is expenses for a one-day forum on the state of the college presidency.

The search committee of university trustees planned another meeting Wednesday. A decision is expected early next year.

The university has paid its executive headhunting firm about $151,000 to date with a final payment of at least $67,000 due when the search is completed, records show.

And the bill for the university’s Aug. 30 “Symposium on the University Presidency” was $117,000, including hotel and travel costs for participants, appearance fees and $96,000 in advertising, according to figures provided to The Associated Press through a records request.

“Who will lead America’s public universities in the 21st century?” said an $85,000 advertisement in the New York Times on Aug. 29.

No tax or tuition dollars were spent on the event, university spokesman Gary Lewis said.

“The symposium was one component of the university’s approach to help frame its search for a new president,” he said in an email. “Advertising the symposium was a key strategy to support our ability to reach and inform potential candidates and leaders about Ohio State’s search.”

The university’s contract with Dallas-based headhunter R. William Funk and Associates calls for $200,000 plus expenses. It suggests the new president could be paid around $600,000 a year. Funk typically bases its fee on a third of the salary plus bonus for the position it’s filling, according to the contract.

Former president Gordon Gee’s base salary after six years at the university was about $860,000. His total earnings, including benefits, retirement and deferred compensation, were about $2 million. Gee retired in July after remarks he made jabbing Roman Catholics, Notre Dame and Southeastern Conference schools were made public.

Ohio State’s search costs are in keeping with the complexity of the job and the national profile of the university, said Jamie Ferrare, managing partner at the search division of the Association for Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

In addition to its undergraduate academic programs and its high-profile sports teams, Ohio State also has a medical school and hospitals and professional schools for business, law and pharmacy, among many others.

“It’s so broad and so big; it’s not a job for the meek and mild,” Ferrare said. “For someone to come in with that kind of experience, they need a search firm to attract the top people.”

Headhunters are increasingly common in big-school searches. About one in three university presidents who were recruited before 1983 said a search consultant was used, according to a 2012 report by the American Council of Education on the college presidency. That percentage has nearly doubled for searches since 2007, the report said.

For public institutions that grant doctoral degrees, such as Ohio State, four of every five searches are done via consultants, the report said.

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