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University of Montana President Seth Bodnar received more than $316,235 in total compensation last year, the highest for a UM president since 2016 but still well below the national median, according to new data from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle publishes data each year on the compensation that more than 1,400 higher education executives receive and released its 2018 findings Sunday.

Bodnar’s total compensation is the largest that the Chronicle has logged for a UM President since Royce Engstrom received $316,819 in 2015-16 (the Chronicle previously collected data based on fiscal year, rather than calendar year). Engstrom’s compensation ranged from that amount at the high end to $198,645 in 2010-11.

The Montana University System’s Board of Regents hired Bodnar in November 2017. After a brief co-presidency with his predecessor and interim UM President Sheila Stearns, he assumed full leadership on January 13, 2018. His contract initially provided for a $313,845 annual base salary.

In 2018, Bodnar received $304,641 in base pay. Terri Phillips, UM’s associate vice president for human resources, explained via email how that number broke down: $6,848.79 for work performed prior to 2018 but paid for last year; $10,100 as an automobile and electronics allowance; and $287,692.25 for 11 months’ worth of work. He was not paid for December of 2018 until 2019 started. That last month brought his 2018 wages to the $313,845 specified in his contract.

In addition to his $304,641 in salary and allowance, Bodnar also received $11,594 worth of health insurance.

Stearns, former commissioner of higher education, took home $198,062 in 2016-17 and $58,094 in calendar year 2018 when she served as interim president. Stearns took that role starting December 2016, before fully handing the reins over to Bodnar in January 2018.

Bodnar’s pay last calendar year was lower than the $327,793 that Montana State University President Waded Cruzado received in 2018, and the $326,493 that Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian received. In addition, Cruzado and Christian respectively earn about $59,000 and $45,000 in annual deferred compensation that the university system will pay them at some point in the future. Bodnar does not currently have any.

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According to the report from the Chronicle, nationwide pay for university executives ranged considerably, from nearly $2.6 million for University of Texas system president William McRaven to just $1,098 to University of Tennessee system interim president Randy Boyd.

Both Bodnar’s and Cruzado’s pay was below the median compensation of about $460,000 among the roughly 1,400 executives that the Chronicle’s survey analyzed. Last November, the Board of Regents voted to increase the base salaries for Bodnar, Cruzado and Christian from $313,645 to $320,122.

That decision took place amid UM’s ongoing effort to lift declining enrollment and close a $10 million structural deficit. The university’s most recent enrollment figures, released in February 2019, showed 10,644 students — down 3.1% from spring 2018.

At the time, UM Vice President for Enrollment Cathy Cole noted that while enrollment was still declining, the rate of decline had slowed. She did not reply to a request for information about where enrollment and related metrics stand currently; UM typically takes a census 15 days after the start of each semester.

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