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SALT LAKE CITY -- At the request of Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah higher education officials will consider deferring recently approved pay increases for the state's public college and university presidents until a study on comparable salaries is complete.
On Sept. 16, the Utah Board of Regents unanimously voted to raise the salaries of all eight state college and university presidents, saying their compensation is as much as 30 percent behind national averages.
In addition, the board approved the hiring of a consultant to conduct a national comparison of presidential salaries and compensation.
Gov. Herbert requested that the board "hold off on salary increases pending the results of the study" in a letter to Regents Chairman David Jordan on Monday.
"We all recognize the importance of higher education in expanding our economy and providing critical skills for individuals to provide for themselves and their families," the governor stated in the letter. "Having the right people at the helm of our colleges and universities is critical to this effort, and having competitive salaries for these positions must be a key part of our higher education strategy."
Herbert said he believes lawmakers and higher education officials can work together to come up with "a competitive and sustainable system of compensation" for Utah's college and university presidents.
We all recognize the importance of higher education in expanding our economy and providing critical skills for individuals to provide for themselves and their families.
–Governor Gary Herbert
The Board of Regents is expected to convene a special meeting to consider deferring the salary increases until the study is complete. No date has been set for the meeting, though officials said it likely will be held prior to the regents' Nov. 18 meeting at Utah Valley University.
"We share the governor's confidence that, with all interested parties working together, we can establish a compensation policy that will keep Utah competitive in recruiting and retaining outstanding college and university presidents," Jordan said.
Herbert also asked that the board "be sensitive to our current economic climate and state budgetary constraints" during the study.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, has said he believes the pay increases send the wrong message to college and university faculty and staff who have gone several years without raises.
Waddoups also cautioned that the regents' action could make it more difficult for the higher education system to get more money from state lawmakers next legislative session.
Since the raises were announced, five of the college and university presidents have said they would either turn down the pay increase or donate the funds to school- specific sholarship funds.
Results from the national salary and compensation comparison are expected to be presented to the Board of Regents in May.