University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft accepted a contract extension on Thursday after the Board of Trustees offered her a $75,000 raise plus a half-million-dollar incentive to stay for five years.
The raise will make Genshaft one of the highest paid university executives in the country at an institution where professor pay is near the bottom.
Genshaft will receive a salary of $470,000, up from her current $395,000; a one-year performance stipend of $175,000; plus $100,000 a year for staying all five years, payable at the end.
In her 10th year at USF, Genshaft said she was thrilled by the offer.
"I will be pleased to keep that laser focus and passion for what I think is the best university in the country," she said, noting that her favorite book from childhood was "The Little Engine That Could."
Of the total pay package, only $225,000 a year comes from public dollars because of a state funding cap. The rest will come from the private, non-profit USF Foundation.
The board voted unanimously for the contract offer, with trustees seeming to compete to offer the highest praise.
"The president has done a splendid job of getting the university a seat at tables we haven't been at before," said trustee Hal Mullis.
The faculty representative on the board, Elizabeth Larkin, USF Sarasota-Manatee education professor, also lauded Genshaft but questioned the size of the raise.
"Faculty are going to ask why (Genshaft) is receiving such a large percentage increase in base salary while faculty salaries are at the low end," she said.
An assistant professor's average salary at USF in 2008-09 was about $63,000. Among Florida's six research universities, only Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton paid less. The USF faculty union negotiated a 1.5 percent raise this year, with further increases for merit and promotions.
Trustees said the big raise was necessary to keep Genshaft at USF.
The committee that recommended the raise used a consultant, Raymond Cotton, of ML Strategies in Washington, D.C., who said search firms called her constantly trying to assess her interest in seeking a new job.
Most of Genshaft's new salary is based on her success this past year with a series of performance goals. The university only partially met several of those goals, said the trustee who led the compensation committee, Jordan Zimmerman.
Its six-year graduation rate, for instance, was two points under the goal of 51 percent. But the university met many of the 12 goals, Zimmerman said, and "all the goals are on year-to-year growth trends."
Genshaft, 62, guides a university system with a $1.8 billion budget and more than 47,000 students at a main campus and three branch campuses.
Under her leadership, it's gained national attention for the growth of its federal research funding. And she's promoted the athletic program so passionately that she was named chairwoman this year of the board of the NCAA Division I.
Her ultimate goal, she has said, is to boost USF into the ranks of the American Association of Universities. The invitation-only organization has only 63 members. The only Florida member is the University of Florida.
But rising to that level would require a substantial increase in several areas, including student-faculty ratios. Earlier in the meeting, Provost Ralph Wilcox presented an annual report that showed USF at about 27 to 1.
The average for AAU institutions is 18 faculty members for every student. "We're a long way out of that range," he said.
But he praised Genshaft for her focus on preventing faculty layoff over the past three years as state cuts sliced USF's operating budget by more than $50 million.
And as Florida faces more budget cuts, pushing toward AAU eligibility will require Genshaft not only to avoid more layoffs but increase hiring, he said.
Her new pay "is not a lot of money for the job we're asking her to do," said trustee Byron Shinn.
Genshaft's total annual compensation will amount to $850,374, including retirement contributions.
She tops John C. Hitt, president of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, whose total compensation is $721,148, and Florida State's Eric Barron, at $599,250, according to consultant Cotton.
But she's making less than the University of Florida's Bernie Machen's, whose total compensation is $875,054.