Times are lean at Washington’s public universities. Hiring is frozen or nearly so at both Washington State and Eastern Washington universities. Travel budgets have been slashed. Administrators are looking to pinch pennies anywhere they can.
But one area that hasn’t come in for the austerity treatment is presidential salaries. At WSU, President Elson Floyd was just given a 21 percent raise after his first year on the job – a boost that takes his annual salary to $725,000 and puts him in the same league as University of Washington President Mark Emmert, one of the best-paid college presidents in the nation.
Francois X. Forgette, chairman of the WSU board of regents, said Floyd had surpassed all expectations and that the pay raise was the right response to keep a top-flight leader at WSU. He said that Floyd’s work to establish a center for studying global animal health, to review and prioritize university programs, and to create a new leadership team were among the major accomplishments in a productive first year.
“We knew he was a top performer … but we were convinced we received an even better performance than we could have anticipated,” Forgette said Monday. “We’re just giddy and excited about how things will progress from here.”
Meanwhile, EWU’s board of trustees recently approved a smaller raise for President Rodolfo Arevalo – a 5 percent increase that brought his annual salary to about $234,000. Arevalo’s salary is a bit below average for regional universities such as EWU.
The raises came just as Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that state agency heads and senior members of the governor’s staff wouldn’t be getting raises this year, because it was “not appropriate” with the state facing a huge budget deficit.
State analysts predict a shortfall of about $2.7 billion in the next two-year budget, which lawmakers begin writing in January. The deficit could mean big budget cuts, tax increases or both, and both Floyd and Arevalo have implemented hiring restrictions and other measures intended to get ahead of the budget problems.
The presidential salary at WSU has more than doubled in the past three years, since former president V. Lane Rawlins earned $324,450 in 2006-07.
Floyd’s salary is going from $600,000 to $725,000, and regents also boosted his deferred compensation, to be paid only if he stays through the end of his contract in 2012, to a total of $500,000.
It puts Floyd on a basically even footing with Emmert, who was the third-best-paid president of a public college in the country last year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Emmert’s annual salary is $620,000 and his deferred compensation is $250,000, for a total of $870,000.
Floyd’s salary plus this year’s $150,000 in additional deferred compensation comes to $875,000.
That doesn’t include perks such as housing and transportation, which both presidents receive.
“I greatly appreciate this vote of confidence by the board,” Floyd said in a statement. “Their support is instrumental in what we, as a leadership team, have been able to accomplish so far and will accomplish going forward.”
Forgette said Floyd has done an excellent job in his first year, with record enrollments and the university’s largest-ever donation – $25 million toward the school for global animal health – since he took over. He said few people are capable of such work, and that WSU needs to do what it can to hold on to Floyd in a competitive market for university leadership.
Arevalo’s raise took his salary from almost $223,000 to $234,000, and the board extended his contract by a year to 2011 and gave him an added $20,000 in deferred salary that he would receive once he completes the contract.
Gordon Budke, a member of EWU’s board of trustees, said board members were happy with the job that Arevalo has been doing in the areas of maintaining enrollments and improving student retention, as well as raising the university’s public profile. He said the 5 percent raise was a middle ground between rewarding Arevalo and “being fair to the institution,” and noted that raises for faculty members have also gone forward this year.
“All the university presidents – these guys and gals are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t think any of them are paid enough,” Budke said. “It’s hard for me to say, ‘You’ve done a good job, but you don’t get a raise.’ ”
Arevalo’s salary is lower than the average of $259,000 among presidents of “regional universities” nationwide. It’s higher than the presidential salary at Central Washington University ($228,951) and lower than that at Western ($300,000), EWU spokesman Dave Meany said.