In the search for a new chancellor, UNC-CH is looking to lock in a top-performing higher education leader.
But performance comes with a price.
Schools in North Carolina continue to face stiff competition from other universities that often offer their leaders better pay. Knowing this, N.C. State University has already taken precautions to keep its chancellor in the state.
In a closed-door meeting last week, the UNC-system Board of Governors voted to raise the salary of N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson to $495,000 and approved other benefits, making him the highest-paid chancellor in the system.
UNC could also seek to raise the salary of the replacement for Chancellor Holden Thorp, who will step down from his role in June. Thorp makes $420,000 a year.
UNC-system spokeswoman Joni Worthington said in an email that the increase in Woodson’s salary was passed to help retain Woodson at the university. The same philosophy applies to schools looking for a new leader, she said.
“When searching for a new chancellor, our campuses must offer competitive compensation in order to attract the very best candidates,” she said.
Woodson and Thorp are the two highest paid chancellors in the system — but their salaries are lower than university leaders at many of UNC’s peer institutions.
The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor recently increased President Mary Sue Coleman’s salary to $603,357 a year, and University of California-Berkeley’s incoming Chancellor Nicholas Dirks received a $50,000 raise in November to earn $486,800.
“What UNC pays for its chancellor is low by national standards,” said John McGowan, an English and comparative literature professor and a member of the search committee looking for Thorp’s replacement. The committee will meet again today to evaluate potential candidates.
No decision concerning compensation for Thorp’s successor will be made until a short list of candidates is finalized, said Wade Hargrove, chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees and the committee.
When that process is complete, committee members will decide whether potential competition from other schools will influence pay, Hargrove said.
“The marketplace will speak to that,” he said.
McGowan said he thinks UNC’s lower salary can be attributed to the school’s traditionally lower tuition rates.
“We’ve been proud of the fact that we don’t occupy that universe of huge executive salaries,” he said. “(UNC-CH has made) a commitment to a certain notion of education and a certain sanity about our price.”
But he said he believes it’s likely that the next chancellor will be offered a sizeable pay increase.
“In order to get someone to take the job, we’ll have to offer a bigger salary,” he said.
Non-state funds provided by N.C. State will pay for Woodson’s raise, Worthington said.
McGowan said he thinks it’s a possibility that private money could also be used to lure Thorp’s successor to the university with a higher salary. Higher education observers have raised concerns in the past about the influence of donors and alumni on chancellors who are paid with private money.
But regardless of how Woodson’s compensation is paid for, John Taylor, associate vice chancellor for advancement services at NCSU, said the move to increase the chancellor’s pay was necessary.
“If (state universities) want to retain or hire the best, then we need to come up with funding,” he said.
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