Education

The University of Louisville Board of Trustee’s compensation committee recommended President James Ramsey receive a 6 percent merit raise on his base compensation next year, even as some board members have raised concerns over Ramsey’s high salary.

The committee also suggested the UofL Foundation—which pays part of Ramsey’s salary—give the president a bonus of 25 percent of his current base salary.

If the full board approves the increase, Ramsey’s base salary will be $687,899. That doesn’t include a possible $162,240 bonus from the foundation, or deferred compensation. In the last fiscal year, Ramsey’s total pay, including bonuses and other types of compensation, climbed to slightly more than $1.1 million.

Board members on Monday heard from Ramsey on his accomplishments over the past year, as well as his progress toward meeting goals set out in the university’s 2020 strategic plan. Ramsey reported that 20 of his 23 goals had been met.

A consultant also presented the results of a $23,000 study commissioned by the trustees of the compensation of top university officials at similar institutions. Mark Reilly of consulting firm Verisight told the trustees that in general, UofL officials were paid at or above the market level. Ramsey’s base pay, in particular, was higher than any of the other university presidents surveyed.

The report also found that deferred compensation plans, which last year added close to $300,000 to Ramsey’s pay, are common among universities. It recommended a more detailed analysis of the plans.

UofL trustees defended Ramsey’s high pay, pointing to his accomplishments in his last 13 years at the university.

“We’re looking at an all-star president,” Trustee Ron Butt said, comparing Ramsey to professional basketball player Kobe Bryant. “So we have a prime superstar, all-star team.”

He urged an analysis of Ramsey’s cumulative average pay, not just the pay for most recent years.

“The real question in here is whether or not we are paying Dr. Ramsey appropriately, or are we paying him over the top?” said UofL Foundation Board Member Joyce Hagen. “And we’ll probably never get to the actual, real number here, when you’re looking at all these different data sources. But I think we can assure ourselves based on what we’ve seen up till now that’s he’s not being paid inappropriately high.”

The Board of Trustees compensation committee voted unanimously to recommend the 6 percent merit raise, to be matched by the 25 percent bonus from the Foundation. The full board will convene later this week for its annual retreat.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.