Updated Dec 15, 2021 - News

University of Minnesota board to vote on pay raise for president

joan gabel
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel is up for a big boost in pay.

Driving the news: The agenda for this week's University Board of Regents meeting includes a proposed contract extension that would increase the president's salary package by hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next five years.

  • By 2026, Gabel's total compensation could be worth about $900,000, not counting supplemental retirement benefits.

Details: Under the proposal, which extends Gabel's current agreement by two years, her annual salary would increase from $649,900 to $660,968 as of Dec. 1 of this year, with future annual raises of between 3% and 5%. It also includes:

  • Performance bonuses of up to $50,000 for fiscal year 2022 and $100,000 a year through 2026, subject to approval by board members.
  • More than $1 million in supplemental retirement contributions through 2026, doled out in sums ranging from $90,000 to $280,000. The contributions, which vest over the term of the contract, mark an increase for the final years of her current agreement.
  • A car allowance of $5,000 in fiscal year 2022 and $10,000 a year after that, plus a parking and mileage stipend of $100 a month.
  • Reimbursements of up to $15,000 for an "annual executive physical."

Between the lines: The updated salary agreement follows a challenging two years for the U, which faced a shortfall of more than $170 million earlier this year due to pandemic losses.

Yes, but: The revised package also brings her salary closer in line with many fellow Big 10 leaders.

  • Even with the raise, she'll make less in base pay than the conference average of about $800,000, data compiled by the U shows. The retirement pay is in a similar range to peers.

What they're saying: Board of Regents chair Ken Powell called the new package "well deserved," citing the Big 10 compensation comparisons and provisions requiring her to stay to receive the full retirement pay.

  • "President Gabel is a remarkable president and we are fortunate at the University of Minnesota to benefit from her leadership, passion and drive," Powell said in a statement, praising her "steady hand" during the pandemic.
  • Gabel declined to comment on the proposal ahead of the vote.

The other side: Critics questioned the size and timing of the proposed raise.

  • "I don't know how you credibly tell your students that we simply have to expect more from them when we have the resources for these kinds of expenditures," Regent Darrin Rosha told the Star Tribune.

Flashback: Gabel, a former provost at the University of South Carolina, was hired as the U's first female president in 2018.

What's next: The board is set to review and act on the agreement on Friday.

Read the full agreement, which starts on page 130.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reaction.

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