Fund rewards chancellors to stay at NU

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA — University of Nebraska senior executives have more incentive to stick around for a while.

The NU Board of Regents Saturday unanimously approved a proposal to establish a deferred compensation plan that will reward chancellors and the university president for not leaving their posts.

As the plan reads, a university contribution equal to 11.5 percent of the senior executives’ first-year base salary will be invested into a fund once every year.

Once the executives have stayed in their position for five years, they are entitled to half the fund. Once they complete their seventh year, they are entitled to the entire fund.

For example, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman is scheduled to earn $220,000 from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002. Each year he remains chancellor, $25,300 will be invested into a fund, said Joe Rowson, NU spokesman.

After five years, Perlman will have access to half the fund. After seven, he’ll have complete ownership and control of the fund.

The plan will be funded by private donations from the University of Nebraska Foundation.

With the last two University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellors leaving after just four years, a commitment had to be made to keep senior executives from leaving, said Regent Charles Wilson of Lincoln.

NU ranks below the midpoint of its peer institutions in terms of salary, Wilson said, but this deferred compensation helps soften that shortfall.

“Hopefully it will encourage the senior executives to stick around to get the compensation,” Wilson said. “It gives them incentive to stay beyond five years.”

The current national average for the tenure of chancellors and presidents of universities is between three and four years, Rowson said.

That is an unacceptable amount of time, said Regent Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons.

“The past two chancellors at UNL came and left quickly,” Hassebrook said. “If people view UNL as just a rung on a ladder, they won’t stay here. And when they don’t stay here, they don’t have an effective impact on the institution.”

Regent Nancy O’Brien of Waterloo said the deferred payment plan would help bring consistency and continuity to the NU system.

“It’s a real good move,” O’Brien said. “We feel that a chancellor that is committed to the university and the state will do a better job. This plan will help encourage their commitment.”

Perlman said the plan was a step in the right direction.

“It certainly increases the cost of leaving,” Perlman said. “I would suspect that this will cause people to stay longer.”

Gladys Styles Johnston, chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, said the board was wise in passing the proposal.

“What it really does is makes us competitive with other institutions,” Johnston said. “By doing this, the entire system is stabilized, and that benefits everybody associated with it.”

In other business, the board unanimously decided to allow a wider percentage of senior citizens to attend university classes for a one-time $25 fee.

Nebraska senior citizens, ages 65 and older, will be eligible to take NU classes without paying tuition during the next two years.

The regents earlier decided that only those 70 and older would be eligible for the program.

Regent Don Blank of McCook proposed an amendment that would allow those five years younger to be involved as well.

“I’m comfortable with letting more people participate,” he said.

The program, which should not cost the NU system any money, allows the senior citizens to attend university classes without getting college credit.

They must first purchase a $25 learning passport and gain permission from the professor to attend the class.

They will only be allowed to take the class if there are empty seats, Wilson said.

“These people have been paying taxes, so it’s nice to give them this learning opportunity,” he said. “It may even add a valuable perspective to the other students in the class.”

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