An executive headhunter was scheduled to meet Tuesday with Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr and members of a search committee to review possible candidates for the University of Utah president's job.

Kerr and committee members were to meet William J. Bowen of Heidrick and Struggles, consultants in executive search, New York, in a closed-door session. Kerr said the meeting was closed, under the Open Meetings Law, because individual candidates would be discussed.The committee hired the New York firm from a pool of 12 applicants. This is the first time that professional consultants have been used in a search for a Utah college or university president.

Kerr said Heidrick and Struggles had more experience in university presidential searches than the other applicants. The consultants have been involved with presidential searches at several major institutions in the past few years.

Heidrick and Struggles said that among the presidential searches that it has conducted are those for Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Virginia Commonwealth universities and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

The firm's fee is still under negotiation, the commissioner said. However, he said a typical fee for a headhunter is one-third of the president's salary. U. President Chase N. Peterson earns $113,000, but it's possible that the committee will have to negotiate a different salary for Peterson's successor.

Saying he recognizes that consultants' fee is substantial, Kerr also added, "It may be the best money that could be spent. They will assure a pool of qualified candidates and do background checks. It may well be a very small price to pay."

Among the consultants' duties will be to identify key candidates, with a concerted effort at finding women and minority candidates. In its proposal to the search committee, Heidrick and Struggles touted an exemplary record in placing women and minority candidates, noting that 17 percent of the searches conducted by one consultant had resulted in women and minority placements.

The consultants aren't the only sources for candidates, however. The committee has already received 75 applicants or nominees. Kerr said he expects about 150 candidates.

The consultants will also do extensive credit and reference checks on the candidates to ensure that they are qualified. Kerr said that several years ago it was discovered that one strong candidate for a college presidency had received a diploma granted by a diploma mill.

On Monday, the search committee moved back the applicant deadline from Feb. 1 to Feb. 15. Kerr said the committee still hopes to appoint the new president by April or May to ensure a smooth transition when Peterson retires June 30.

The committee continues to refine its list of institutional needs and candidate qualifications. Committee members have been meeting with campus and community groups, gathering suggestions.

The committee also decided that it will not publicly announce the names of the five or six finalists.