RICHMOND Va. — Not all university presidents in Virginia receive the same fringe benefits.
Some universities offer presidents incentive or retention bonuses. Other schools don’t. Some schools provide the presidents with an automobile. Others provide an allowance for presidents to use their own vehicles. Most also provide residences for the presidents, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
The taxpayer-funded portion of the president’s pay is set by the General Assembly. The amount is augmented by governing boards from other university funds.
Last year, Virginia Commonwealth University’s governing board amended President Michael Rao’s contract twice. His base salary of $488,500 remains the same. But the revised contract included a $50,000 bonus for his performance in the 2011-2012 academic year and a $50,000 expense account. His deferred compensation to $146,500 and will rise to $191,500 on July 1.
George Mason University President Angel Cabrera’s base salary is $531,400, the highest among the publicly paid presidents, and his deferred compensation is $17,000 annually. He also will receive a one-time “stay bonus” of $75,000 in deferred compensation.
Cabrera also is eligible for an annual performance bonus of up to 20 percent of his base pay.
Christopher Newport University President Paul S. Trible’s contract includes a yearly bonus if he meets fundraising goals. He is the only president with such a contract provision.
Trible said the bonus comes from funds that are separate from gifts to the university. He said he sees “absolutely no conflict” of interest in receiving the bonus.
Trible’s contract also includes a $500,000 penalty if he leaves to take a job at another educational institution.
“I suspect the contract reflects in part their hope that I will stay on board,” he said.
Until recent years, bonus provisions were uncommon in university presidents’ contracts. As appointees from the corporate world began to dominate school boards, that changed, said Raymond D. Cotton, a partner in the Mintz Levin law firm in Washington who has specialized in higher-education governance since 1981.
“When I first started doing this work, nobody talked about bonuses. Presidents didn’t ask for them, boards didn’t grant them,” he said.
That began to change as boards became dominated by appointees from the corporate world who brought their business practices with them, he said.
Cotton opposes bonuses for presidents that are awarded as a percentage of fundraising success.
“That’s an example of people bringing business ideas that work well in the for-profit world but do not work well in the nonprofit world,” he said.
He said such a bonus undermines the president’s role as an advocate for the university and not his own benefit. Other methods are available to reward presidents without paying them on a commission basis for the funds they raise.
“Indeed, what would be next, paying them a `bounty’ for the number of students the university enrolls?” he said.
Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger is the highest paid president in Virginia, with a compensation package worth $853,433. He also is the only public four-year school president in the state who works without a contract.
“I’ve never had a contract,” said Steger. “When I was named president in 2000, the world was a bit different.”
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com