Foundation-funded bonus makes Woodson UNC's highest-paid executive

In addition to his $520,000 state-funded salary, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson is eligible for a $200,000 annual stipend from a university foundation.

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Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson is poised to become the highest-paid executive in the University of North Carolina system this year thanks to a privately funded bonus provision included in his contract in July.
In addition to his $590,000 taxpayer-funded salary, the contract makes Woodson eligible for a $200,000 annual stipend paid by the N.C. State University Foundation, a nonprofit closely tied to the university that is used to raise private funds for the school.+++
Woodson's contract does not guarantee he will receive the full stipend every year, but if granted, his combined $790,000 in take-home pay would be more than the $775,000 the UNC Board of Governors agreed to pay new UNC President Margaret Spellings when she takes her post in March. His new contract, which runs until June 30, 2019, was signed only a few months before Woodson announced he would donate more than $1 million toward a scholarship fund for the children of N.C. State employees.

"We think we've got one of the best chancellors in the country," said Jim Owens, chairman of the N.C. State Board of Trustees, adding that the extra compensation would help the university retain Woodson.

Woodson's arrangement is unusual for North Carolina. He is the only chancellor in the UNC system to have a contract for a defined number of years rather than an open-ended "letter of appointment," which generally describes the conditions of hire and salary terms. He is also the only chancellor to be eligible for a privately funded stipend.

This is the first year Woodson has been eligible for the stipend, and it would amount to a 38 percent pay increase if he receives it.

"I certainly wasn't asking for anything," Woodson said during a break at a UNC Board of Governors meeting Friday. He added that he was grateful to the university and pleased that UNC was working on ways to ensure it retained top talent.

The Board of Governors Personnel and Tenure Committee signed off on a new set of guidelines for the UNC system's top executives this spring, raising the salary ranges for chancellors and other top leaders. It also adjusted its policy with regard to "non-salary compensation," clearing the way for privately funded stipends.

Less than two weeks later, meeting minutes show that the N.C. State Board of Trustees established how and when N.C. State University Foundation funds could be used "for the purpose of providing supplemental compensation to the Chancellor of N.C. State University from privately raised funds." The procedure laid out in the minutes requires sign-off by the Board of Trustees executive committee and the UNC Board of Governors. The new policy notes "the payout is not automatic and the amount may vary from year to year" and adds that the Board of Governors will make a decision "in a timely manner so as to ensure that the payout will occur as promptly as possible and in the same calendar year."

This year's stipend has not yet been paid, according to Woodson and Owens.

Woodson may not be unique among top UNC administrators for long.

A summary of Spellings' contract distributed by the university says the incoming president will have the "opportunity to earn performance-based deferred compensation tied to attainment of specific Board of Governors-assigned metrics/goals." Those metrics will be defined at some "later date" and will "be paid entirely from non-state, privately raised funds."

Observers said that other UNC leaders would likely be in line for similar payments.

Retaining talent

Ira "Jerry" Jackson, the chairman of the N.C. State University Foundation, responded through a university spokesman that he was out of the country and unable to comment for this story.

Salary information WRAL News obtained through a public records request shows that state-funded salaries for UNC chancellors range from $212,520 for J. Todd Roberts, who heads the N.C. School of Science and Math, to $520,000 for Woodson and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt.

Aside from Woodson, the most notable salary increase among the heads of UNC campuses during the past five years has been a $85,150 bump on Jan. 1, 2015, for James Anderson, the chancellor of Fayetteville State University. That amounted to a 35.5 percent raise, bringing his salary to $325,000 per year, making him the fifth-highest paid chancellor in the system.

"When you look at where he has brought us, he has done a tremendous job," said Donald Porter, chairman of the Fayetteville State University Board of Trustees.

Porter pointed to Anderson's work to restore the university's struggling nursing program and a general improvement in academic performance. As well, Porter said, Anderson had "put our financial house in order."

While the UNC Board of Governors has the final say-so on Anderson's salary, Porter added, FSU's trustees wanted to make sure the university "remained competitive" and did not see Anderson lured to another institution by a bigger salary package.

On Friday, the UNC Board of Governors raised the salaries of a dozen other UNC chancellors, but did not disclose which ones or how much their pay would change. Those salary changes were released on Monday, Nov. 2, and the tables and numbers in this story have been updated to reflect those changes.

Salaries of UNC chancellors*

*Information current as of Nov. 2, 2015. The UNC Board of Governors adjusted the salaries of a dozen chancellors on Friday, Oct. 30, but did not disclose those changes until Monday Nov. 2.
**Woodson's salary in this table reflects only state funds, not the stipend offered by the N.C. State Foundation.

University chancellors and the system president receive more than just salary as compensation. Woodson's contract, for example, includes an official on-campus residence, an automobile allowance and a provision of dues to professional associations. He also holds an appointment with permanent tenure as a professor in the Department of Horticulture Science and will receive one year of research leave at half his base salary upon concluding his run as chancellor.

While Woodson's total compensation puts him just outside the top 10 salaries for top university leaders according to a recent CNN report, his counterparts who head private universities can earn much more. Also, although he is at the top end of the UNC salary scale for academics, others in the system earn more. For example, head N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren earns a $2.2 million base salary with the possibility for bonuses based on performance.

"From my perspective, I'm very glad it's something they've come up with outside of taxpayers' funds for salary," said Jenna Robinson, president of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a conservative nonprofit that has been critical of UNC spending on administrative salaries.

That said, Robinson said that Woodson's additional compensation is part of a trend that has sent administrators' salaries shooting up faster than faculty salaries. It's also worth noting that the Board of Governors approved a tuition and fee increase across the UNC system this year that amounts to an average of 4.3 percent.

"The entire university system and universities across this country are in a kind of an arms race with administrator salaries. The direction is really alarming," she said.

Others were pleased by efforts to retain Woodson.

Jeannette Moore, a professor in the Department of Animal Science and the chairwoman of the N.C. State faculty, said Woodson "may very well be the best chancellor in history, and I know other universities are actively trying to recruit him."

Moore said Woodson has done "an amazing job" of fundraising, has promoted excellence at the university and supports a cooperative "shared governance" approach with the faculty.

"He is truly amazing, and I support efforts to retain him, just as he supports efforts to retain outstanding faculty even in these trying times," she said, pointing out that Woodson is poised to give some of his salary back to the university.

He and his wife, Susan, donated $1.15 million toward a scholarship fund for the children of N.C. State faculty and staff. The scholarship will be worth at least $2,000 per year and fund students for up to four years. The value of the award could vary, depending on the number of qualified applicants and available funds.

Woodson said that he had been looking for a way to establish a scholarship for the children of staff members but had been unable to find a way to do it out of state funds. His gift to the new scholarship program, he said, was unconnected to the new bonus payment "except for the fact that any donation is based on your ability to fund it."

Owens said that the board would evaluate whether to grant Woodson the stipend based on how well he does following goals set in his strategic plan for the university. Those goals include things such as grown the university's endowment, increasing the research done on campus, increasing graduation rates and how many students are studying abroad.

"He's now been here long enough that he's absolutely a proven leader," Owens said of Woodson. "As a group of trustees, we've just been very energized and excited by what Randy (Woodson) is doing on our campus."

+++ This story originally published on Oct. 30 using information that had been publicly available at the time. The UNC Board of Governors made changes to a dozen chancellors' salaries on Friday, Oct. 30 but did not disclose that information until Monday, Nov. 2. This story and the attached table have been updated to reflect the newly available information.

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