U of M president gets rave reviews, contract extension

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Calling him an "outstanding leader," the University of Minnesota Board of Regents Wednesday extended the contract of President Eric Kaler for five years, in a move designed partly to keep him from being recruited by other schools.

The contract includes a 2.5 percent increase in Kaler's salary, which will go from $610,000 to $625,250 next year, as well as increases to his life and disability insurance and retirement contributions, according to a statement from the university.

The contract extension follows Kaler's performance review last month, which called his accomplishments "exceptional." Kaler, who oversees a university system with five campuses around Minnesota, has been president since July 2011.

The regents pointed to progress Kaler has made on several issues, including mending the U's strained relationship with the State Legislature; boosting investments in research on campus; and pledging to reduce administrative costs at the U by $90 million.

Board chair Richard Beeson said the regents decided to act now on Kaler's contract extension, rather than wait until it expires next year, because there are several high-profile colleges and universities recruiting new leaders, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

"Our hope is to retain him here and keep his compensation competitive with other universities," said Beeson.

"I am honored to be the president of this great institution, and I am grateful for your support," Kaler told the regents, according to the Pioneer Press.

Kaler's total compensation package next year will be $784,700, which is sixth highest among his counterparts at Big Ten conference universities, the Star Tribune reports.

Kaler's current base pay is 12th among 250 comparable public universities around the country, according to the annual presidential pay survey released in May by the Chronicle of Higher Education. His current total compensation of $693,150 was 27th on the list.

A report this spring from the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies criticized the U of M for how much money it spends on administration compared to the rest of its budget.

The report ranked the U of M third worst in the nation when it comes to university spending on administration. Kaler fired back, saying the group was "dead wrong" and used “incorrect data to reach erroneous results.”

Kaler himself hired a consultant to look at the same issue about a year ago, after a Wall Street Journal report in December 2012 used the U of M as a case study in administrative bloat at American universities.

The chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Steven Rosenstone, was also awarded a contract extension recently.

Rosenstone, who was hired in 2011, will make $387,250 in base salary for the coming school year, a 1.8 percent increase. He also will receive a $43,160 boost to allowances for transportation and other expenses, MnSCU said.

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