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Salaries of university presidents on the rise

Hitt ranked second in Fla. for highest salary

Published: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Updated: Sunday, February 7, 2010 18:02

Hitt

George Oehl

President Hitt is the second highest-paid public university president in Florida and he is ranked 32nd nationwide, according to a recent report by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The median base salary for public university presidents rose to $436,111 in the 2008-2009 school year, according to the report.

This was an increase of 2.3 percent from the previous year. 

President Hitt's base salary is $463,500, more than $27,000 more than the median. With his compensation package, including deferred compensation, retirement pay, club dues and money provided by the state for his car, Hitt's salary totals $594,730.

The Chronicle also reported that in the previous four years, presidential compensation packages have risen by at least 7.5 percent each year. In 2005 the increase was 19 percent.

The UCF Board of Trustees gave its final approval to keep President Hitt's base salary the same at a meeting held Jan. 14. 

In November, the Board voted to give Hitt a pay increase, but he declined because of the bad economy.

He also declined in 2008 for the same reason, despite the Board's approval.

"President Hitt felt the time wasn't right," said Grant Heston, assistant vice president of UCF News & Information. "When it came up at the board meeting, he refused the pay increase before an actual figure was reached by the Board."

Hitt is not alone.

Many other public university presidents have declined raises and agreed to pay cuts to offset increasing tuition rates and state budget cuts, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"Because public university presidents play a visible role in defending their budgets from state cuts, many presidents don't want to be seen accepting raises, even with Board approval," said Jeffrey Selingo, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

With budget cuts at UCF that have led to faculty layoffs and degree program eliminations, Hitt is still under scrutiny even after his pay refusal.

"Why should he have been offered any kind of raise when the same Board of Trustees said it was necessary to eliminate programs with strong student enrollment and lay off faculty members teaching full and overflowing courses?" said Patrick Murphy, president of the UCF chapter of United Faculty of Florida.

"Like football coaches, I wouldn't ask if university presidents deserve what they get paid in relation to other presidents, but whether they deserve the salaries they are pulling down in days where they are laying people off, furloughing people and raising tuition rates in these hard economic times," Murphy said.

The only public university president in Florida to earn a higher salary than Hitt this year is Florida State University's T.K. Wetherell.

Wetherell will receive a base salary of $315,545.

With compensation benefits included, he will receive a total of $695,877.

Judy Genshaft, the University of South Florida's president, ranks third in Florida.

Genshaft earns a base salary of $395,000 and a total of $591,639 after compensation, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Private donations, namely from alumni, cover most of public university presidents' salaries and benefits.

Florida state law allows taxpayer dollars to cover only $225,000 per institution, it also reported.

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