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Higher education

Regents consider presidential compensation this week

New ISU president signs contract that already call for raises

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen, photographed in her office in Curtiss Hall in Ames. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen, photographed in her office in Curtiss Hall in Ames. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Days before her first performance evaluation, Wendy Wintersteen last week signed a formal five-year contract to serve as president of Iowa State University.

The document outlining her base compensation of $525,000 in the first year, increasing to $550,000 in the second year and to $590,000 in the third year does not include details of the $475,000 deferred compensation package outlined in her offer letter.

That package — unusual in that it pays out after three years, before the end of her contract — remains in place, according to Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman. It will be in a separate agreement being finalized, he said.

The regents in October picked Wintersteen from among three finalists to succeed former ISU President Steven Leath, who left to become president of Auburn University.

Wintersteen is ISU’s first female president and the first regent university head in Iowa to land scheduled pay raises upon appointment, a stepped deferred compensation schedule and a package payout before the end of her contract.

Her starting pay of $525,000 puts her where Leath was when he left. Her $590,000 salary in the third year brings her on par with the salary of University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld.

Paired with the deferred compensation payout, Wintersteen is slated to amass compensation of $1.065 million in 2020, the same year Harreld is due for a $1 million deferred compensation payout that would bring his pay that year to at least $1.59 million.

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The regents typically draw up deferred compensation agreements separate from contracts, according to Lehman. Until recently, the board did not craft presidential contracts but rather relied on initial offer letters as binding agreements.

It first created a formal contract for University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook, hired in 2016 to succeed former UNI President Bill Ruud. Nook, whose three-year contract pays him $357,110 annually, was not offered a deferred-compensation plan, though his contract allows the board to do so.

The Board of Regents evaluates the performance of its university presidents — along with its executive director and the head of its special schools — twice a year.

For years it offered raises following annual evaluations. But regents have not increased any of their presidents’ pay since the summer of 2015.

Harreld’s salary has remained the same since he started in 2015, after he and Leath in 2016 requested no raise following their annual evaluations. The board similarly took no personnel action last summer as it faced funding cuts.

Midyear evaluations provide another opportunity for the regents to consider raises, with a discussion about “personnel action” set for Wednesday.

But two of those being evaluated — Wintersteen and board Executive Director Mark Braun — only recently started.

When he began in November, Braun landed a $185,000 incentive supplementing the state-imposed salary cap for the job of $154,300. The increase in his three-year contract will be paid over 18 months, bringing him to $195,364 in about eight months through the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

For the full 2019 budget year, Braun will make $246,800 in both base and incentive pay.

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The evaluations come at a time lawmakers are again looking to make budget cuts and as universities have requested steep tuition increases for the next academic year if state appropriations fall short.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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