Try 1 month for 99¢

The new University of Montana president will be paid a $313,845 annual salary as proposed in contract terms the Montana Board of Regents will consider next week.

However, deferred compensation — such as $500,000 packages earlier given to flagship presidents — is not included in the contract, according to the agenda item posted Wednesday.

This fall, Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian announced General Electric executive Seth Bodnar would be UM's next president. The news followed a national search for candidates, visits to campus by four finalists, and public input.

The Regents will take up the hiring contract at their November meeting.

Bodnar, considered the nontraditional candidate because his career has been spent mostly outside academia, will receive a salary that, if approved, is at the same level as interim UM President Sheila Stearns' and Montana State University President Waded Cruzado's, according to the Commissioner's Office.

"We were able to complete this recruitment without having to make any commitments or arrangements on deferred compensation," said Kevin McRae, deputy commissioner for communications in the Commissioner's Office.

It is possible that Bodnar and Christian will discuss deferred compensation over the course of the next year, McRae said. But he said the university system has never been able to hire a new president at the same salary level as its current presidents. 

"The good news is that the salary is certainly a deal," he said. 

Engstrom was paid a few thousand dollars less in his final year as president.

This summer, a national Chronicle of Higher Education survey put the pay at Montana's flagships at 73 percent of the median. The average salary was $501,398, up 5.3 percent from the previous fiscal year, according to the Chronicle.

McRae did not know the reason deferred compensation was not part of Bodnar's contract, but he said it typically has been used as a retention tool.


In 2010, when former UM President Royce Engstrom and MSU's Cruzado took their campus leadership posts, Montana University System salaries were low compared to those in surrounding states, according to the Commissioner's Office at the time.

The difference was around $60,000 a year, and to offer competitive compensation without having to fund a higher salary up front, the Regents agreed the presidents each would qualify for $500,000 in deferred compensation after five years' service.

The presidents would receive annual $50,000 installments paid from age 65 to 75, according to the Commissioner's Office.

In November 2015, the Regents approved another $500,000 in deferred compensation for Cruzado. One year later, Engstrom gave up the chance at a second round himself; he said he did not believe it would be appropriate for him to request another contract given the stressed financial situation at UM.

An enrollment decline has continued to affect the UM budget.

Other items in the incoming president's contract include the following:

  • University-owned residence "with the expectation that a reasonable amount of university-related events and university business shall be conducted there,"
  • A monthly vehicle allowance; the contract does not specify an amount but does note it will be provided in accordance with the Regents' policy,
  • Retirement, health, life and disability insurance benefits, and
  • An initial term through June 30, 2020, with a start date to be finalized between the commissioner and next president.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

University of Montana, higher education