"It's too lucrative" said House Chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee Roberta Willis
“It’s too lucrative,” said Roberta Willis, House chair of the Higher Education Committee.
“It’s too lucrative,” said Roberta Willis, House chair of the Higher Education Committee.

Leaders of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee have concerns with the sizable pay boost the president of the state’s flagship public university will receive over the next four years.

“It’s too lucrative,” said state Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury, the co-chairwoman of the committee responsible for overseeing the University of Connecticut. “She seems to be doing a really good job, but the contract is just overly generous.”

The UConn governing board on Monday voted to increase President Susan Herbst’s annual compensation to $831,070 by 2019 — a 60 percent boost in the eight years she has run the school. Her contract was also extended by three years.

Chairman Larry McHugh said the UConn Board of Trustees gave Herbst the raise because she has done such a good job.

“Isn’t that what we’ve have been paying her for?” asked Willis. Herbst currently receives $575,000 in salary plus tens of thousands in other compensation. “I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that big of a raise.”

Sen. Toni Boucher, the ranking Republican of the Higher Education Committee, also expressed concern.

“Many still believe that it is not fair to increase the tuition on hard-working students and their families on the one hand and then approve a nearly $1 million contract to its president,” Boucher, R-Wilton, said. “There is a public perception that the government sector is living in a bubble, insulated from the reality that people and businesses are enduring. This action may feel like rubbing more salt in a wound.”

When the raise was approved yesterday, the UConn Foundation, the university’s chief fundraising arm, also announced that they would pay a larger share of the president’s salary. Willis and Boucher said that boost from the foundation — from $145,000 a year to $300,000 – raises more questions than it answers.

That money that’s now going to her raise is money people gave to the school to benefit the students,” Willis said.

“This is one of the reasons some would like to see UConn and its foundation be more open and transparent,” said Boucher.

The foundation makes some financial information public but has an exemption from the state Freedom of Information Act. Previous efforts to increase public disclosure by the foundation have failed in the legislature. Willis hopes the upcoming legislative session will change the law.

“It’s a public institution. It’s going to be a conversation again this year,” she said.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

Leave a comment