Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Search to find a chancellor to top $130K; KU Endowment to pay much of the bill

KU Endowment, at 1891 Constant Ave., is shown in this Journal-World file photo from Nov. 23, 2016.

KU Endowment, at 1891 Constant Ave., is shown in this Journal-World file photo from Nov. 23, 2016.

March 19, 2017


Private donations are primarily footing the bill to find a new chancellor for the University of Kansas.

Coupled with nearly half the chancellor’s annual salary being funded by KU Endowment, plus some more to help the chancellor with business expenses, that makes the whole job substantially supported by private funds.

The expense — including close to $200,000 for the search, plus roughly a quarter-million dollars per year for salary — aligns with KU Endowment’s mission, president Dale Seuferling said.

“Certainly for a position as important as the chief executive officer and leader of the university, we feel it’s important that the Board of Regents have the resources available to compete nationally in conducting a quality search,” Seuferling said. “Then, on an ongoing basis, making available an appropriate level of private funds to support the retention of the person in that position is important.”

Dale Seuferling

Dale Seuferling

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced in September that she plans to step down at the end of this school year. The Kansas Board of Regents currently is conducting a search for a new chancellor, asking for applications by the end of this month with the goal of hiring someone to start by July 1.

KU Endowment has agreed to pay up to $183,500 to retain R. William Funk and Associates, the search firm hired to recruit candidates, according to a contract the Journal-World requested and obtained from the Board of Regents. The contract, a letter of engagement between Funk and Associates and KU Endowment, was signed in December.

The $183,500 total includes a fixed fee of $130,000 plus reimbursement for administrative and direct out-of-pocket expenses, according to the letter. Reimbursable expenses related to the search include candidate and consultant travel and lodging, advertising, background checks and clerical costs, according to the letter.

Bernadette Gray-Little

Bernadette Gray-Little

KU Endowment also paid the same firm, R. William Funk and Associates, to assist with the search that resulted in the hiring of Gray-Little in 2009.

All told, the 2009 search cost more than $162,000, according to a Journal-World article following Gray-Little’s hire. The bulk of the funds — about $120,000 — were spent on the search consultant, and the remainder included expenses such as hotel stays, travel costs and catering for the KU search committee and other candidates.

Board of Regents policy allows state universities to pay their CEOs with a combination of state and private funds, but private funds can account for no more than 49 percent of the person’s annual monetary compensation, Board spokeswoman Breeze Richardson said.

The policy explains that’s “to assure that the chief executive officers are accountable to the Board” and that the majority of the funds used to pay universities’ chief executive officers are public.

KU uses close to the maximum allowed private funding for its chancellor salary, and has for many years, Seuferling said.

Gray-Little’s total salary is $510,041.

Seuferling said more than $220,000 of her total salary currently comes from KU Endowment.

Whoever’s in the chancellor’s office, the Board of Regents sets that person’s salary each year. Part of that process involves making a request to KU Endowment to fund a portion of the salary, to which KU Endowment routinely says yes, Seuferling said. He said the same process is followed if a new chancellor is hired at a time that doesn’t coincide with the fiscal year.

“It’s always been reasonable, and there’s been agreement with the board’s request,” Seuferling said.

A significant portion of the funding for the KU chancellor’s annual salary comes from a university leadership teaching professorship fund established by the late Charles Oswald, who established similar funds for leaders of Kansas State and Wichita State universities, too, Seuferling said.

The rest of KU Endowment’s chancellor salary comes from unrestricted funds, Seuferling said.

When the Board of Regents first asked KU Endowment to assist with the chancellor salary, close to 20 years ago, it was because the state salary the Board had available wasn’t sufficient to recruit and retain people to the position comparable to what the market was paying, Seuferling said.

“The market had risen and had outstripped what the state’s salary level was,” he said. “So this is very much akin to private funding for professorships and directors of university units.”

In addition to funding the chancellor search process and annual salary, KU Endowment also provides money for the chancellor to conduct his or her duties, such as flights to attend meetings and other business expenses, Seuferling said.

Contact KU and higher ed reporter Sara Shepherd
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