A special compensation committee of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees met Tuesday to discuss President Eli Capilouto's salary and how it compares to other presidents, but members quickly decided they need more information before recommending any changes.
UK officials had gathered data from the Chronicle on Higher Education, which collects presidential compensation figures each year. But while most schools report base salaries, many do not report bonuses, deferred compensation or retirement benefits.
"The raw data is vastly under-reported and suspect as far as reliability," said Britt Brockman, the compensation committee chairman.
Capilouto makes a base salary of $535,500 a year, plus $80,325 in retirement benefits, for a total pay package of $615,825. He also received a $150,000 performance bonus this year, but then donated $250,000 to the university for a new research building.
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Capilouto's compensation puts him fourth among the 14 SEC schools and fifth out of eight peer institutions with a similar organizational structure, including a medical center, professional colleges and a liberal arts school on the same campus.
The University of Florida pays its president $1.1 million, but the school does not report bonuses, deferred compensation or retirement. Some schools pay presidents through foundations, which do not have to make their records public in some states.
Faculty trustee Robert Grossman pointed out that like the corporate world, academia has focused more on paying top administrators than faculty, whether those administrators do a good job or not.
"We know there have been university presidents vastly overcompensated for their skill," he said. "That makes a lot of faculty resentful that administrative salaries skyrocket while faculty salaries don't. We need to think about what's appropriate."
According to one UK study, faculty salaries in 2011-2012 averaged $84,246, compared to the benchmark average of $95,222.
A Herald-Leader analysis found that the UK president's pay increased an average of 9.7 percent each year over the last decade, eclipsing the average annual tuition increase of 7.3 percent and far outpacing the average faculty and staff pay increase of 2.1 percent.
Trustee Terry Mobley said there's also resentment that athletics salaries have ballooned.
"To think we have assistant football and basketball coaches making more than the president of the university, something has gone awry here," he said.
"It's all subjective," Mobley said, "but we just have to feel good about our package that we have put together for our current president and make sure it resembles something that would not penalize us in the future."
The committee decided to try to get more information on actual compensation packages before making a recommendation to the executive committee of the board of trustees. The full board next meets on Dec. 9.