The Buzz

August 8, 2014

USC president to make $1 million-plus in 2017

University of South Carolina trustees voted Friday to give president Harris Pastides a raise that would put his total compensation at more than $1 million a year by 2017. The university’s foundation, which would pay for the increase, also must approve the pay hike.

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to thebuzz@thestate.com.

University of South Carolina trustees voted Friday to give president Harris Pastides a raise that would put his total compensation at more than $1 million by 2017.

The board recommended the USC Foundation increase Pastides’ compensation, paid out of the foundation’s privately raised money, to $503,800 a year – a $108,800 increase.

The foundation must give final approval to the pay increase. But that approval is little more than a formality.

Pastides’ annual state-paid salary – $286,200 a year – will remain unchanged. However, his total base salary — including state and foundation money – would increase to $790,000, if the foundation approves the increase.

“There is no doubt Harris is among the best presidents in the country,” trustee chairman Gene Warr said in a statement. “This increase in his compensation is well-deserved.”

Trustees also recommended the foundation pay Pastides, 60, two one-time bonuses of $100,000 each – to be paid on July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016 — if he remains USC’s president.

The bonuses are in addition to a $250,000 bonus that Pastides will receive July 2017 if he remains in the post. That bonus, OK’d in 2012, consists of five yearly bonuses of $50,000 each to be paid in a lump sum in 2017.

Combined with state and foundation money, that bonus will bring Pastides’ total compensation for 2017 to more than $1 million.

The pay raise would make Pastides the second-highest-paid head of a public S.C. university — trailing MUSC’s president — and the third highest-paid president in the Southeastern Conference, based on 2012-13 salaries from the other schools, the most recent available.

In a news releases, trustees cited several accomplishments they attribute to Pastides:

•  Making the USC system more efficient, earning its Columbia campus an accolade in U.S. News magazine as one of the Top 15 most-efficient universities
•  Growing the number of students attending USC schools, including more South Carolinians than ever, and setting a strategy for meeting classroom and housing needs
•  Improving the academic quality of USC’s students — the school’s entering freshmen have record SAT scores and grade-point averages — as well as the school’s record rate of retaining and graduating students
•  Record philanthropic giving to the university during “Carolina’s Promise,” the university’s $1 billion capital campaign that now is nearing its goal
•  Record levels of external research funding each year until the recent federal budget sequestration, which cut federal money for academic research

“One of the best decisions this board has ever made was naming Harris as our system president,” trustee chairman Warr said.

“Since Harris took office in 2008, our university and higher education in general have faced a strong headwind from the recession and significant reductions in state and federal funding,” Warr said. “Despite these challenges, Harris’ steady, confident leadership has allowed USC to emerge stronger than ever as a globally recognized, high-impact university dedicated to a superior student experience.

“We’ve gotten leaner administratively, innovated to meet the needs of students and the business community, and now we’re educating more South Carolinians than ever before.”

Pastides, entering his seventh year in office, is the fourth-longest serving president in the Southeastern Conference.

Last year, as he marked his fifth year as USC president, Pastides said he did not “covet being the president of another university.”

However, as he watched the heads of three other S.C. universities step down in quick succession, Pastides said he had started thinking about what he might do after USC, saying he might consult or work for a foundation.

Pastides said then he did not have an age in mind when he might leave USC.

“I don’t want to be a tired, bedraggled president,” Pastides said. “I don’t want to be at 70 percent of my game and say, ‘I love my job, and I’ll do this forever,’ and have people say, ‘I knew him when he was at the top of his game.’ I’m going to leave before that.”

The pay raise and bonuses in coming years would place Pastides among the 10 highest-paid public university presidents, based on a 2014 Chronicle of Higher Education survey. However, that ranking could change as the compensation of other presidents is updated to reflect their pay hikes.

Of 256 top public university presidents, only nine made more than $1 million a year, according to that report.

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