Bonus potential for new WSU president part of growing trend

  • Max Filby
  • Staff Writer
March 09, 2017

Wright State University’s new president will earn the lowest base salary of any public university leader recently hired in Ohio, but her high bonus potential is part of growing trend in higher education.

Cheryl Schrader will receive a base pay of $425,000 and she is eligible to receive up to $260,750 in job perks, excluding health and retirement benefits. It means Schrader could bring in more than $680,000 in compensation in her first year.

“There’s much more use of bonuses these days and extra benefits have grown,” said Richard Vedder said, an Ohio University economist and expert on college affordability.

Funding for higher education is facing a difficult future, Vedder said. While leading a college can be difficult, if compensation continues to climb, Vedder said universities will probably receive some blow-back from angry taxpayers.

“I think universities are pushing the limit of what the public finds acceptable,” Vedder said. “I think they’ll run into some trouble on that somewhere down the road.”

When considering what to offer Schrader, trustees said they considered Wright State’s recent financial woes.

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“Well, we didn’t ignore it,” said Doug Fecher, trustee and presidential search committee chairman. “Our goal was a contract that was fair both to Cheryl and to the university.”

Wright State is expected to spend around $40 million more than it takes in for fiscal year 2017 and officials must cut $25 million from the budget in FY 2018.

Schrader said the pay she was offered is in line with what she expected and with Wright State’s current financial status.

“The board of trustees did their due diligence,” Schrader said.

A president’s salary is usually fully decided by a college’s board of trustees, said Jeff Robinson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Higher Education. There is no state policy directing the parameters of presidential pay, Robinson said.

Schrader’s contract is is $70,000 less than Gregory Crawford at Miami University and almost half that of Ohio State University’s Michael Drake, who’s base pay is $832,320 after the raises he received in 2015 and 2016, according to performance reviews.

When deciding what to offer Schrader in a contract, WSU trustees considered what similar colleges paid and specifically looked at Ohio University. OU named a new president in February and it was the most recent presidential appointment until Wright State’s on Monday, Fecher said.

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OU’s new president, Duane Nellis, was awarded a contract with a base salary of $475,000, $50,000 more than Schrader’s.

The thought behind Schrader’s offer, Fecher said, was that WSU is a smaller campus with fewer branch campuses than Ohio University. OU has around 17,500 undergraduate students enrolled and five branches, while Wright State has 13,607 undergrads enrolled and just one branch campus.

“That drove the thinking behind some of it,” Fecher said. “We knew we had to pay a reasonable contract to get the talent we needed.”

Compensation for college leaders has ballooned over the last few decades though, Vedder said, especially in terms of bonuses.

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Schrader is eligible for a bonus equal to 25 percent of her base pay, or $106,250.

Wright State will also provide her a deferred payment of $54,000 in her first year, $36,000 annually toward housing, $12,000 a year in car expenses, $42,500 to move and $10,000 toward a country club membership, according to the contract.

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