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Breaking down the private funds that pay the KU chancellor's salary


If the comments on this story and the interactions with the @LJW_KU Twitter account last week are any indication, many of you had some thoughts and feelings about last week's Kansas Board of Regents vote to award a pay increase to KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, along with the chief executives at the state's other public universities.

One important detail, amid declining state funding at KU, is that the $60,000 raise for Gray-Little will come entirely from private funds. That means the privately paid portion of the chancellor's salary is approaching the state fund-paid portion: About $272,000 will now came from state funds, with about $221,000 coming from private funds.

That left me with a question: What are those "private funds," exactly?

Well, they come from the KU Endowment Association, but it's a little more complicated than that.

First, some history. KU chancellors' salaries consisted entirely of state funds until 10 years ago, in 2003, when Chancellor Robert Hemenway began to receive an additional $50,000 per year thanks to a $1 million donation from a KU graduate. That donor, Charley Oswald, of Edina, Minn., also donated $1 million each to Kansas State and Wichita State universities.

Each donation created a professorship fund — like ones used to pay additional salary for distinguished professors — to bolster the salary of each university's chief executive.

Ten years later, that fund at KU provides about $70,000 of the chancellor's salary, said KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling. The rest of her salary — and all of the $60,000 increase the Regents approved last week — comes from the Endowment's Greater KU Fund, to which donors can make unrestricted gifts "to advance the university for a variety of purposes," Seuferling said.

A big majority of gifts to the Endowment come with specific instructions for their use, but some donors give money that the Endowment can use for any purpose at KU, with the approval of the Executive Committee of its Board of Trustees. Those go into the Greater KU Fund.

For the current fiscal year, which ends a week from today, donors have made 2,921 unrestricted gifts to the Endowment totaling about $2.3 million (an average of $800 per gift), according to numbers that Seuferling shared. The totals for restricted gifts are much higher: 80,576 gifts that add up to about $128.7 million, with an average gift of about $1,600.

For the coming year, around $151,000 of the chancellor's salary will come from the unrestricted fund. Over time, Seuferling said, the Regents have asked for privately funded increases to the chancellor's salary that exceed the amount available each year from the fund established by Oswald's donation. Those increases require approval from the Endowment's Executive Committee.

So, in sum, here's how the chancellor's salary will break down, roughly: $272,000 from state funds; $70,000 from the Endowment fund created to pay some of the chancellor's salary; and $151,000 from the Endowment's unrestricted fund.

Gray-Little's new base salary of $492,650, by the way, would rank 34th among public university leaders in the most recent survey on that subject published by the Chronicle of Higher Education (though that survey was for the 2012 fiscal year, and she'll make that salary in the 2014 fiscal year, so obviously other leaders' pay may have increased since then, as well). Her then-base pay of about $429,000 ranked 60th in the survey for that year. (Overall, she was the 86th highest-paid executive on the list, but that includes retirement and severance payouts, among other factors.)

The Regents said the raises for Gray-Little and the other leaders were designed to make their pay more competitive nationally, and this one would appear to do that.

I'm sorry if you didn't expect your Monday to include so much math. I'll stop throwing so many numbers at you, but only if you send me a KU news tip to divert my attention. Send 'em to

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  • Comments

    lawrenceloser 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    When I see photos of her she always looks stoic and in another world like she is only there to get a paycheck. I mean what has she really done? Kind of reminds me of Obama.


    funmoney 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    For a 2,080 hour work year (52 wks @ 40 hrs/wk), this salary works out to $236.85 per hour. It escapes me how anyone would think this position warrants this kind of pay. Just because other "elite" schools can afford this does not mean KU can. I attended KU from 1972 - 1976 and my average semester tuition expense was $300-400. I lived at home and worked part time to supplement my income. I had no student loan debt when I graduated and bought my first house for $15,000 when I was 20.
    Instate tuition has now ballooned to $4,395 per semester. One would certainly think that this sort of increase would result in a better education, a better job after graduation, and other tangible benefits. Unfortunately, higher education has largely become a state sanctioned for profit business that has little concern for the student customer. How demoralizing it must be to graduate with debt equivalent to some mortgages coupled with few, if any, job prospects that utilize their newly acquired college education.
    Let's face it, the taxpayer is on the hook for student loan defaults, which are currently the highest they have ever been. During this time though, all the professors, administrators and other officials still get salary increases that are not tied to any specific performance measurements. I don't know what they are based on other than their collective ability to raise tuition costs to meet these increases in salary. This is some kind of racket and sure goes against what I was taught about the value of a college degree.
    Furthermore, proponents of this system (largely college administrators) insist that a college education is an absolute requirement for future success. This notion serves only to perpetuate this myth. In my experience as a private sector employer and having recruited and hired many people with and without a college education, I see no correlation between having a college education and future job success.
    It would be an interesting survey to go up and down both sides of Massachusetts from 6th street to 11th street and see just how many KU graduates are working in relatively unskilled jobs just to make ends meet. I would bet many of these folks are terribly disillusioned and regret the investment that they were so stridently urged to make in their college education. In conclusion, this method of paying extra money to administrators and professors from non-state controlled funds is no different than the often castigated Koch brothers' political contributions. One can't have it both ways. The hypocrisy of this whole situation leaves much to be desired and I am sorry to see KU fall into this trap of constantly rising tuition without any accountability for what happens after graduation. Maybe it is time to apply some of these same standards to the educational community. While it would be nice to see this, I am not holding my breath in anticipation of it.


    Currahee 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    If you don't like it then don't donate.... it's that simple. I don't.


    Tammy Copp-Barta 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    And if she were in line for a with 1% - if they would even give that - would equal $4926.50 a year .. the average KU staff member makes about $20-30K ... 1% of that would be $200-$300 a year .... the rich get richer! ...


    crafty 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    I don't give a hoot where the money came from, the fact is she got a 13-14% pay increase and the rest of the university didn't. To add insult to injury, we are supposedly in dire straits financially...she could take that pay increase and put it towards something to benefit the students or even the buildings (I believe there is still a huge deferred maintenance backlog). I'm getting so tired of mid to high level administrators getting large percent increases, when the admin assistants, maintenance/custodial staff, accountants and technicians get .5-1% -- if we are lucky. Those in the decision making positions are taking care of themselves, but not their subordinates.


    irtnog2001 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    What are the tangible benefts of being a member of the AAU? I think membership costs a hefty sum each year. Perhaps the $$$ could be better spent reducing freshman class size and reducing reliance on TA's. Higher education has changed and KU must compete for students with highly competitve alternatives such as community colleges and online classes being offered by many outstanding institutions nationwide. KU is no longer the big fish in the small pond it once was. KU can't even rely on getting the lionshare of students from Johnson County anymore.


    kensington 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    As Oscar Wilde said, “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

    Reminds me a lot of this set of comments.

    Also the comments remind me of an old joke. An old immigrant mother tells her very successful son, "If I were Rockerfeller I would be richer than Rockerfeller." The son says, "Mom, that's crazy, how would you be richer than Rockefeller?" The mom replied, "I'd take in a little laundry on the side."

    The comment writers seem to have no idea of what it takes to run a major research university. We are one of 30 public universities allowed to be in the most prestigious set of 60 universities in the nation (AAU). You are shocked that the Chancellor's salary would place her 34 (actually lower for reasons described) out of 30.


    Standing_on_my_own_2_feet 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    When are people going to open their eyes and see what a SCAM these public universities really are. They con so many students into taking on HUGE student loans, only to graduate into an over saturated field (if they're lucky enough to find a job at all). While the whole time the Profs and Administrators are being paid RIDICULOUSLY bloated salaries and benefit packages! Think outside the box folks and quit supporting these overpaid clowns!

    Do they ever use any of the "unrestricted donations" to lower student tuition or help pay for their absurdly overpriced books?


    Dont_Tread_On_Me 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    I think the state should reduce her state funded salary by the same amount, wouldn't that be funny?


    chootspa 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    The optics on this just stink. She's getting a raise bigger than the total yearly pay of a lot of KU employees. The fact that the Regents approved this is to me proof that they're working toward total privatization. And if their funding priorities are any hint, I'm sure that whole thing will be just swell.


    TongiJayhawk 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    Funny how they can come up with a way to use endowment funds to give her a raise. Though they are unable to find funds to run the air or heat overnight when custodians are working. Their would be protests if faculty had to go without heat or air while just sitting in their office. Custodians are doing manual labor and are expected to do it without air or heat!! Maybe they could use a little of those funds they find for a $60,000 raise, to pay for a little heat and air for the working man or women!!


    clovis_sangrail 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    That's almost a 14 percent raise.

    What percent did faculty and staff get?

    What percent did other state employees get?

    And what is the chancellor's total compensation?

    Inquiring minds want to know.


    Keith Richards 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    Thanks Chancellor for being invisible, for rarely speaking in public, for ineffectively leading the university, for rarely or ever giving staff raises. Probably tough to get by in your free $2.5 million dollar house with a driver, free cars, country club memberships and a measly $ 492,650.00 salary.

    What good have you done for the University in your time here? Maybe it is time for you to get out and lead something rather than hire more provosts and consulting companies to do your job for you!

    Meanwhile over at KSU the president seems to be doing a great job being visible, communicating with the public, and increasing enrollment.


    irvan moore 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    does that private money count toward raising her kpers retirement benefit


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