New University of Massachusetts president Jack M. Wilson will earn $350,000 a year plus an array of benefits including hefty car and housing allowances, under an agreement reached with trustees this week, a UMass spokesman said.
The salary is higher than that of his predecessor, William M. Bulger, who earned $309,000 plus benefits, but falls well short of the $400,000 limit that trustees set on Wilson's pay before starting negotiations this month.
Since before Bulger was president, UMass has set presidents' pay at the 75th percentile of "peer" systems, meaning it is higher than three-quarters of schools with similar numbers of students and campuses. A UMass survey of comparable institutions last fall found salaries ranging from $300,000 to more than $450,000; the 75 percent rule would have put Wilson's pay at $375,000.
But after less than two weeks of negotiations, board chairman Grace Fey and Wilson agreed on a smaller salary, closer to the middle of that group, in part because of the system's tight budget, a spokesman said. The salary was calculated by starting with Bulger's salary and adding 4 percent per year for inflation since 2001, when it was last raised.
Wilson "felt comfortable in this range and was cognizant of the fact that the university is coming out of a difficult fiscal period," said Robert Connolly, a spokesman for the president's office. Wilson and Fey could not be reached for comment last night.
The new president's five-year contract, signed Tuesday, offers significant benefits beyond his salary: an annual payment into his annuity of up to 12 percent of his salary, or $42,000; a life insurance policy to be purchased by the university at a cost of up to $18,000 a year; a housing allowance of up to $40,000 a year; and a car allowance of up to $12,000 a year. He is also eligible for an annual bonus of up to 10 percent of his salary, based on his performance, with bonuses to be determined by trustees, Connolly said.
"The University of Massachusetts needs to be competitive in its compensation for a leader to oversee a $1.6 billion operating budget," board of trustees vice chairman William Giblin said yesterday in a statement. "We are getting Jack Wilson at a very competitive rate, given that his salary is a lot less than he could have earned if he had pursued other offers." Wilson, a former dean at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who was hired as founding CEO of UMass Online three years ago, was a finalist for the presidency of Worcester Polytechnic Institute when he was named president of the UMass system in March.
Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington lawyer who specializes in presidential contracts, said presidents hired from within a university and those hired without prior presidential experience are typically paid less than leaders recruited from the presidencies of other institutions.
But with many more presidential job vacancies than qualified candidates, and salaries "galloping" upward, he said trustees are wise to keep an eye on the marketplace. "If there's a good match between the president and the institution, a board would be foolhardy to pay him under the market," said Cotton.
Jenna Russell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.