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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — With Barbara Wilson just over a month away from starting as the next University of Iowa president with a base salary of $600,000, the Board of Regents voted Thursday to raise Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen’s base pay to match.
Wintersteen had been earning an annual salary of $590,000, on par with former UI President Bruce Harreld, whose last day of his nearly six-year stint was May 16. After a national search netted four finalists, regents on April 30 chose Wilson to succeed Harreld starting July 15.
The vote on Wintersteen’s raise was among several compensation decisions the board made Thursday in advance of a tuition increase expected to be announced soon for at least the UI and ISU after the Iowa Legislature earlier this year rebuffed the regents’ request for a budget increase. The board, meeting this week on the UI campus, gathered in-person for the first time in over a year because of the pandemic.
In addition to Wilson’s five-year contract paying $600,000 a year, the regents awarded her a five-year deferred compensation deal with annual contributions of $400,000 — amounting to $2 million total. The board also upped Wintersteen’s existing annual deferred compensation contributions by $100,000 through 2023, bringing them to $300,000 through that date.
Wintersteen received a $475,000 payout from her first deferred compensation plan in 2020 and in 2019 agreed to a new deal contributing $200,000 annually through 2023. This week’s amendment ups that for the next two years, bringing her total payout in 2023 to about $733,333, according to board spokesman Josh Lehman.
The board made those compensation amendments after meeting with its institutional heads to evaluate their performance and set goals. Although Wilson, 63 — who has been executive vice president and vice president for student affairs with the University of Illinois System since 2016 — hasn’t yet started at the UI, she did meet with the board in Iowa City this week to set goals.
The board Thursday did not change University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook’s compensation. In 2019, it extended his contract through 2025 — with an option to renew through 2027 — but did not increase his base pay of $357,110. The board at that time did increase Nook’s deferred compensation contributions to $100,000 a year, but he forfeited half that for both this year and next due to the university’s COVID-19 losses.
Also Thursday, the board established a new deferred compensation plan for its executive director, Mark Braun, with annual contributions of $105,000 for the next two years. Braun, whose current contract runs through 2024, earns a complex compensation matrix to sidestep a state salary cap for his position of $154,300. A state employee database show he was paid about $172,000 in fiscal 2020.
Finally, the board this week increased its annual salary for Special Schools Superintendent Steve Gettel by 1.1 percent, awarding a performance incentive of $20,000 and establishing a new one in that amount for the next budget year. Gettel oversees two state-run schools for deaf and blind students. The state database showed he was paid nearly $219,000 in fiscal 2020.
All three of the campuses are facing budget challenges after the pandemic led to more campus expenses but fewer students — and thus a loss of tuition revenue — and prompted lawmakers to cut appropriations.
Additionally, in the recently ended legislative session, lawmakers not only rejected the board’s request to restore the $8 million they cut last summer, they also denied the board’s ask for an additional $18 million in appropriations.
Without any state funding increases or restorations, the board’s total funding will remain stagnant at $613.6 million — instead of the $642.9 million it had wanted.
That likely will mean tuition increases this fall above a base 3 percent hike for UI and ISU resident undergraduates — and possibly those at UNI. The board in 2018 adopted a five-year tuition model for the UI and ISU promising at least 3-percent increases for resident undergraduate students — with the option for steeper hikes if legislative appropriations fall short of the board’s requests.
The model excluded UNI — as it’s smaller with different competitors for enrollment — and it allowed for higher increases for non-resident and graduate students, along with those in costlier programs.
The board put that model on hold last year, given the pandemic, freezing resident undergraduate rates for the 2020-21 academic year at $8,073 at the UI, $8,042 at ISU, and $7,665 at UNI.
Board President Mike Richards on Thursday said regents plan to hold a first reading of next year’s tuition rates still in June, with a final vote coming in late July — although he didn’t hint at what those rates might be.
“Our universities need an appropriate amount of resources to continue to provide high-quality education,” Richards said during the meeting Thursday. “But we also want to keep our universities as accessible and affordable as possible for Iowans. There are many factors to consider. We will be thoughtful as we move forward in this process.”
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