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Critics push back against $500,000 salary for prospective U of M provost

Updated: December 11, 2019 05:33 PM

The University of Minnesota wants to hire Dr. Rachel Croson, the dean at Michigan State University's School of Social Science, as its new executive vice president and provost.

But her proposed annual salary, which would exceed $500,000 when factoring in a full-time professorship, is drawing criticism.

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Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the timing of the salary and compensation package is not good when students have been wrestling with consistent tuition increases over the past two decades.

"Why not start her at a lower salary and give her opportunities to do more?" Scott said. "And once she's proven herself for that additional compensation then pay her a higher wage. Otherwise I think it's wrong-headed."

Scott said the University of Minnesota-Duluth is in the process of laying off employees after it was ordered to cut $5 million dollars from its administrative budget and said it's "bad optics" for the U of M to give Croson half a million dollars at the same time.

Darrin Rosha is a current member of the U of M Board of Regents who also told KSTP he has serious reservations about paying Croson a $500,000 salary when students — and their families — face big tuition increases regularly.

"Twenty-five years ago this position paid $125,000," Rosha said. "Adjusted for inflation, that would be $216,000, and the $545,000 is shockingly over eight times what most Minnesota families get by on."

Rosha told KSTP in a written statement the tuition rate for students since 1995 has more than doubled, and he said so have the salaries and cost of administrators in the four-campus U of M system.

"The Board of Regents cannot defend skyrocketing salaries by claiming it's OK," Rosha said. "And claiming this is the only way to secure top talent is simply not true."

Kendall Powell is Chair at the Board of Regents and he told KSTP he "understands the salary is high" but defended the decision because Croson will repay that money with her superior talent.

"This is the No. 2 position at the University of Minnesota, next to President Joan Gabel," Powell said. "It is super important, and the salary is a reflection of the marketplace because Dr. Croson's salary will be comparable to other provosts in the Big Ten."

At the same time, Powell acknowledged the mounting costs for U of M students.

"I am very cognizant of the need to keep tuition costs in line and find efficincies," said Powell.  "I am confident Dr. Croson will do the same thing, and she is an exceptional talent who will do great things for the U of M system for many years."

The Board of Regents will hold a final vote on Croson's contract on Friday.

On Wednesday, legislators from the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate sent a letter urging regents to delay a vote regarding the provost.

In the letter, lawmakers criticized the optics of the move and pointed out that Croson has never previously served as a Provost but would be paid more than outgoing Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson.

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Jay Kolls

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