SALT LAKE CITY — After the Utah Board of Regents unanimously decided to give raises to all of Utah's presidents of higher learning, many of Utah's university and college leaders are saying thanks, but no thanks.
Perhaps sensing that under current tough economic times it would be politically unwise, perhaps thinking it isn't worth risking alienating state lawmakers who have threatened to tighten funding, or perhaps fearing it would create sour feelings among staff and faculty who haven't seen a pay raise in several years — whatever the reason, some presidents have made it clear they can live without the raise.
Last Friday, the Board of Regents voted to give raises totaling $100,000 to eight of Utah's college and university presidents. The board also voted to commission an in-depth study to look at further raising salaries to keep Utah competitive in its search for presidents. Officials say the salaries for all of Utah's education presidents are 20 to 30 percent lower than national averages.
Regents Chairman David Jordan said it was necessary to raise salaries in order to keep talented presidents and attract new ones. The University of Utah is currently shopping for a replacement after Michael Young left last year to take a job at University of Washington.
Shortly after the Board of Regents voted for the raises, the trend to turn down the offer began with Utah State University President Stan Albrecht.
"In light of the current economic climate and in consideration for the many faculty and staff at Utah State University who have received no change in compensation for several years, I thought my request was appropriate," Albrecht stated in an open letter Friday, saying he planned to give his 4 percent raise — just over $11,000 — to the Aggie Promise Scholarship fund. The fund provides support for first-generation students attending USU who have no other way of paying for tuition.
Weber State University President Ann Milner has indicated she will make a gift to the WSU Foundation, according to a university spokesman. Milner has not said whether that donation will include the entire $18,278 pay increase, or just a portion of it.
In an open letter to staff and faculty sent Sunday, Snow College President Scott Wyatt said he would not take the raise until the Legislature approves the college's budget request for salary increases for faculty and staff.
"I assume you are all aware, or will become aware, of the increase, and I want to make sure you know I will not be accepting the raise," Wyatt said. "I further informed them that I will not accept any increase in pay until after the faculty and staff at Snow College are given one."
University of Utah interim President Lorris Betz has announced he will be donating his $11,597 raise to a scholarship fund for students in the health sciences. Betz, who served as senior vice president of health sciences and CEO of University of Utah Health Care before retiring, has been serving as interim president for the U. while a search is under way.
A spokesman for Utah Valley University President Matthew Holland said Holland plans to create a new scholarship fund with his $7,000 raise. "President Holland will be using the salary increase to create an endowed scholarship for low-income students who are preparing for a career in teaching," said UVU spokesman Mike Rigert.
Holland believes it's a difficult time for everyone because of the economy, especially teachers, and he hopes by creating this scholarship fund that he can help make a difference, Rigert said.
Some other presidents appear to be holding on to their raises, or at least part of them.
A Dixie State College spokesman said Dixie State President Stephen Nadauld passed on the Board of Regents' last offer for a raise when he officially became president in January 2010. Nadauld had served as interim president since March 2008.
"President Nadauld has generously donated to the DSC scholarship fund, a practice that he will continue with increased financial support to that fund in light of the (Board of Regents) approval of higher ed presidential raises," said spokesman Steve Johnson. No word on exactly how much those donations are. Nadauld received a $20,000 raise on Friday.
Inquiries regarding the raises of Southern Utah University President Michael Benson ($13,441) and Salt Lake Community College President Cynthia Bioteau ($12,862) were not responded to by their respective offices.
Legislative leaders were angered by the Board of Regents' decision. Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said last week he was concerned that the raises sent the wrong message to staff and faculty who haven't seen a raise in years. Waddoups added that the higher education system will have a tough time getting more money given this move.