The governing board of the University of Connecticut voted to extend the contract of Susan Herbst as president Monday and give her a raise that would bring her annual compensation to $831,070 by 2019.
“She is a bold, decisive and innovative president whose most important priority has been and continues to be building the academic quality of the university on behalf of our students and the state of Connecticut,” Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh said in an emailed statement.
Herbst, who became UConn’s first woman president three years ago, is now making $575,000 a year in base pay and deferred compensation, as provided by the terms of her current contract. The new contract gives her a 5 percent raise each year and entitles her to a $40,000 performance bonus each year. In addition she will receive two retention bonuses totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.
Herbst also has use of two university houses, one in Storrs and one in Hartford. The university also provides her with a car and driver.
When she started at UConn in 2011 Herbst’s was paid $520,000 in salary and deferred compensation. If she stays at UConn through the 2018-19 school year, she will have seen that total increase by $311,000 – a 60 percent boost in the eight years she has run the school.
“That’s a lot of money,” Claire Price, the president of UConn’s student government and a senior studying pathobiology, said of the increase.
McHugh said the raise was justified because her contract “paid her less than her predecessor and less than many other presidents of comparable institutions. The board’s view was that if President Herbst excelled on the job, we would act to increase her compensation over time based on performance and merit.”
With the announcement UConn released a comparison of Herbst’s compensation with that of similar institutions.
UConn would not release her annual evaluations, saying state law shields them from public release. In a press release, McHugh cited several initiatives that the president has led during her tenure; including hiring additional faculty; increasing enrollment in science, technology, engineering and math programs; and launching new programs to combat sexual violence.
The board’s decision to retain Herbst for another three years comes as students are away for winter break. Price said the student government was not informed such a vote was coming. The press was notified Friday evening of a “special meeting,” though it did not disclose Herbst’s contract was the item being considered.
No students, faculty or staff commented at the meeting, which was held by telephone.
“I think if it was at a different time, I think students would have gone,” said Price, pointing out that many students have concerns that Herbst is not active enough with students on campus.
Asked about why there was a need to schedule a special meeting when Herbst’s existing contract doesn’t expire until June 2016, a spokesman said it was not unusual.
“Extending a contract before the 11th hour is a common practice in higher ed,” said Tom Breen, university spokesman.
“UConn has certainly gone through its ups and downs,” Price said. “It’s not a popularity contest. Susan Herbst is a very good business woman. She’s done very well keeping the university going. Past presidents were more involved with students.”
The 30,000 student university’s chief fundraising arm – the UConn Foundation – will pay $300,000 of Herbst’s annual compensation as opposed to the $145,000 it currently pays.
“This is a great and necessary investment which is happening at many nationally ranked public and private universities. We are please that our support will enable the university to retain a high-caliber leader who plays an important role in the Foundation’s fundraising efforts,” said UConn Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Coleman Levy.
This is Herbst’s second pay increase since she became UConn’s leader. UConn’s spokesman said that in 2012, “Chairman McHugh, after consulting other board members,” signed an amended contract giving her a $30,000 salary increase and a $100,000 increase in the retention/deferred compensation bonus she will receive in 2016.
State law reads, “the board of trustees shall fix the compensation” of the president and similar officials. But, the UConn spokesman said, “There was no formal vote taken, because it was a single amendment to an existing contract.”