Former University of Texas System chancellor Bill McRaven was the highest-paid public university leader in the United States last year, bringing in $2.58 million, half from deferred compensation, according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
A retired U.S. Navy admiral, McRaven said in 2017 that he would leave the UT system in May 2018 — saying health concerns had prompted him to "rethink" his future. He was hired in 2014 and given a three-year contract worth more than $1 million a year. Last year, he received base pay of $600,000; $679,000 in performance incentives; $1.28 million in vested deferred compensation; a $12,000 payout for unused vacation time; and $23,000 toward his retirement.
Scott Kelley, the UT System's executive vice chancellor for business affairs, said McRaven's salary was funded by private contributions. McRaven did not immediately respond Monday to an emailed request for comment.
The perks and pay are common in Texas, which was home to half of the 10 top-paid public university executives last year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education data, which was released Sunday. Its analysis uses base pay, bonuses and other financial benefits to calculate college leaders’ annual compensation.
A&M President Michael Young ranked second in 2018, bringing in $1.89 million — half a million more than John Sharp, chancellor of the A&M System. Of Young’s package, $653,000 was a deferred payout and $215,000 was made up of longevity pay, a housing allowance, special event compensation and “unspecified compensation.” An A&M official confirmed the Chronicle's numbers were correct and declined further comment.
The deferred pay had accrued for three years. Sharp received $248,000 in deferred pay in 2018 and $175,000 in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to the Chronicle data. He received $1,100,000 in base and bonus pay in 2018, and Young received $1,015,000. A spokesman for the A&M system declined to comment.
Young currently has a five-year contract at the College Station university. But when it expires next April, the agreement will not be renewed, according to a letter obtained earlier this year by The Texas Tribune. Young’s employment will instead be governed by annual appointment letters and system policy, as the other A&M campus heads are.
Sharp, the A&M chancellor, received $1.36 million; Robert Duncan, former chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, earned $1.35 million; and Renu Khator, chancellor of the University of Houston system, got $1.4 million, according to the Chronicle’s calculation.
The Houston university said the analysis incorrectly included $400,000 in deferred pay that Khator vested in a retirement plan and did not have paid out.
Khator has made "tremendous accomplishments for both the University of Houston System and University of Houston since she was selected by the board of regents in 2007 for her unique dual role," Tilman Fertitta, the chair of the system's governing board, said in a statement. "I can say unequivocally that the chancellor’s compensation is appropriate based on her stellar track record and achievements overseeing an organization that serves more than 70,000 students, has a budget that exceeds $2 billion and an economic impact on the state of Texas of over $7 billion."
He said the board has "full confidence" in Khator.
Duncan, a former state lawmaker, left the Texas Tech system over disputes with regents last year. A transition agreement showed he was guaranteed pay through June 30, 2019, the end date of his contract.
McRaven received $1.5 million in total compensation in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years, and he was among the three highest-paid executives at public institutions during both. The most recent data is for the 2018 calendar year and includes information for about 270 public institution leaders, 17 of whom received more than $1 million in compensation.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data about private colleges is available, former Baylor University president Kenneth Starr was the top compensated. He received nearly $5 million that year, most of it from a severance package he received in the wake of a sexual assault scandal at the Waco school.
Disclosure: The University of Texas System, Texas A&M University, Baylor University, the University of Houston and Texas Tech University been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.