MISSOULA — While college students enjoyed a tuition freeze this year as a result of legislative funding, cash also went to increase the pay for the presidents of Montana’s two flagship universities, along with their administrators and coaching staffs.
The Montana Board of Regents approved the increases for administrators and coaches this month, as well as the employees in 11 of the 25 unions operating within the Montana University System.
The other 14 unions remain in negotiations.
The highest-paid employees at UM and Montana State University remain their presidents. After Oct. 1, when the raises take effect for all state employees, the two leaders will each earn $296,229 — up from $289,466.
Kevin McRae, associate commissioner with the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, said Montana must compete nationally when hiring quality administrators, faculty and staff for the university system.
Despite their respective raises, McRae said, UM President Royce Engstrom and MSU President Waded Cruzado-Sales will remain the lowest-paid presidents at post-doctoral research universities in the nation.
“That’s something we do take to heart,” McRae said. “When regents are searching for administrators and faculty, they’re searching for the best qualified and capable leaders to serve Montana students.”
Provost Perry Brown will remain the second-highest paid employee at UM, earning $196,570 — an increase of 2.38 percent over last year. MSU Provost Martha Potvin will earn $209,852 — a 2.37 percent raise.
Raises for other top-level UM administrators included Michael Ried, the vice president of administration and finance, who will make $173,053, and Scott Whittenburg, vice president of research and creative scholarship, who will earn $189,413.
Peggy Kuhr, vice president of integrated communications, received a $3,558 raise, bringing her salary to $150,558, while Theresa Branch, vice president of student affairs, will earn $153,812 after Oct. 1.
“Probably 60 percent of the hires we make in the University System are truly national and international hires,” McRae said. “We know that living in Montana, we’re always going to make less than the average. But the University System has to compete nationally, and we do balance the administrative salaries with those concerns.”
Administrative salaries became an issue last spring when a handful of UM faculty members rallied outside Main Hall to protest budget cuts resulting from the school’s declining enrollment.
At that time, 44 faculty members signed a letter asking administrators to forgo salary increases and return 5 percent of their earnings to the general fund. They also asked Engstrom to eliminate administrative positions that some faculty members viewed as unnecessary. No cuts were made to the school’s administrative staff.
While some faculty members protested administrative pay, they also stand to receive their own raises this year. McRae said the Montana University System remains in negotiation with the UM faculty union, and raises are likely once negotiations are settled.
“We continue to bargain with 14 unions in the system, and that includes university faculty in Missoula,” McRae said. “The faculty in Missoula doesn’t yet have a raise implemented. We’re in productive, good-faith bargaining with faculty in Missoula.”
Athletic coaches at the two flagship universities weren’t left out of this year’s round of pay increases, and the football coaches continue to top the list. Bobcat head coach Robert Ash will see his pay increase to $178,715, while Grizzlies head coach Mick Delaney’s salary will climb to $165,557.
Raises also went to track, soccer, tennis, skiing, volleyball and basketball coaches at both universities. Tricia Bader-Binford, the head women’s basketball coach at MSU, will make $138,288, while Robin Selvig at UM will earn $148,751, along with a $6,000 stipend.
When combined, the raises for administrative, professional and coaching positions at UM will climb to $2,836,063 after Oct. 1. Combined salary increases for similar positions at MSU will reach $2,313,892.