Trustees | Costs

UT regents award executives hefty bonuses — six figures, for some

AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN   |  February 26, 2016 by Ralph K.M. Haurwitz

Compensation this year for some senior University of Texas System officials and presidents of UT campuses grew by six-figure amounts and double-digit percentages over last year’s pay, thanks mainly to bonuses, records show.

The UT System Board of Regents approved the increases at a Feb. 11 meeting in Galveston and at a previous meeting in Austin, but a full accounting of the figures wasn’t provided to the American-Statesman until this week. The bonuses, also known as incentive payments, are intended to reflect progress in meeting annual and three-year performance goals for graduation rates, fundraising and other metrics. The UT board adopted the bonus plan in 2012 as part of its effort to infuse higher education management with a business-oriented flavor, a philosophy that has received mixed reviews.

The compensation increases come as the UT board is poised to raise tuition and fees for some of its 14 academic and health campuses, and as many rank-and-file university workers and faculty members have seen little increase in pay in recent years. The board will meet by phone Monday to consider, in the case of UT-Austin, a proposal to raise academic charges for undergraduates from Texas by $304 per semester, or 6.2 percent, to $5,207.In some cases, the UT regents approved a permanent boost in base salary, a one-time merit increase or extra deferred compensation. Mark Houser, the UT System’s CEO for university oil lands in West Texas, received the largest year-over-year increase — $425,000, or 40.5 percent, to $1.5 million in the 2016 budget year.

Other officials whose compensation rose by six figures included Raymond Greenberg, the system’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs, whose pay jumped by $212,406, or 27 percent, to $999,906; Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs, with a boost of $100,964, or 22.2 percent, to $555,325; and William Henrich, president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, who is collecting an additional $189,790, or 18.9 percent, for a total of $1.2 million.

“Tying compensation to results has long been a successful strategy in corporate settings and beyond,” UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said in an email. “Some UT health institutions, for example, have offered incentive-based compensation to managers for years.”

“I’m sure they would justify those big increases by saying they need to be competitive,” said Seth Hutchinson, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, whose members include many workers at public colleges and universities. “Following the same logic, they need to raise the wages of folks on the front line. They’re falling behind, and that’s been the trend for a while.”

Bill Beckner, a UT-Austin math professor and former Faculty Council chairman, didn’t quarrel with the increases approved by the regents but said faculty raises have averaged around 2 or 3 percent, with many lecturers, who handle much of the teaching, paid $40,000 to $50,000.

“Our peer institutions on balance are all paying higher, especially in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math,” Beckner said. As a result, “we’ve lost some really outstanding faculty.”

Stuart Tendler, chairman of UT-Austin’s Staff Council and an administrative manager in the government department, said affordability is the No. 1 issue for staff members.

“What I’d like to see is greater public investment in higher education so we can ease the affordability problem for staff without making trade-offs elsewhere — for example, in the recruitment and retention of world-class faculty,” Tendler said.

The UT board drew praise and criticism when it established the bonus plan in 2012. The office of then-Gov. Rick Perry said incentive pay creates a climate that encourages top performance. The president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni said the plan was worth implementing, but that it was also reasonable to ask why university officials should get extra pay for doing what they are supposed to do anyway. Some UT System presidents said privately that the corporate-flavored approach could create negative perceptions.

Among compensation packages for UT System officials and campus presidents:

  • Bill McRaven, chancellor: $1.9 million, same as the previous year as bonus pay equaled a contract commencement payment his first year on the job.
  • Gregory L. Fenves, UT-Austin president: $800,000, an increase of $37,500 or 4.9 percent.
  • Rodney Mabry, UT-Tyler president: $397,772, a decrease of $13,125 or 0.3 percent, apparently because his bonus didn’t compensate for expiration of a one-time merit increase.
  • Randa Safady, vice chancellor for external relations: $684,063, up $69,758 or 11.4 percent.
  • Daniel Sharphorn, vice chancellor and general counsel: $452,400, an increase of $62,400 or 16 percent.

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