University of Hawaii President David Lassner’s salary ranks in the bottom two-thirds of salaries paid to the nation’s public college presidents, according to a report released today by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Lassner’s $375,000 base salary is No. 152 out of 260 leaders of public colleges and university systems. His salary is in the 41st percentile, meaning roughly 60 percent of public college chiefs earned more than he did last year.
The salary report includes chief executives at 236 public universities and covers presidents whose tenures began or ended during the 2015 fiscal year, including interim appointments. The Chronicle said the report includes all public doctoral universities and all state college and university systems or governing boards with at least three campuses and 50,000 students.
The median total compensation of a public-college president who served a full year was $431,000 — up by 4.3 percent over the previous year. Full-year base salaries ranged from a high of $800,000 for the president of Ohio State University, which enrolls more than 65,000 students across five campuses, to a low of $164,238 for the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, now known as the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
Lassner had been the University of Hawaii’s longtime information technology chief before being tapped to lead the 10-campus UH system, which has 60,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff members, and $1.53 billion in annual operating expenses.
His salary is tied with two others on the list: the president of the University of Louisiana system, which enrolls more than 88,000 students, and president of the University of Southern Mississippi, which has 14,500 students.
By comparison, Lassner’s predecessor, M.R.C. Greenwood, received a $475,000 salary at her hiring in 2009. Former UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, who was hired in 2012, was paid $439,008.
In last year’s salary report, Lassner’s salary was listed as “partial-year compensation” at $270,840, which reflected 10 months of pay at the $325,008 salary the Board of Regents had approved for him when he was named interim president in July 2013. The prorated salary ranked him No. 187 out of 277 executives last year.
Lassner served as interim president for nearly a year until he emerged as the leading candidate for the permanent position. The regents appointed him president effective July 1, 2014, and increased his salary to $375,000. The board at the time said Lassner’s appointment would be “continuous” and subject to annual performance evaluations with objectives set by the board.
He received a positive performance evaluation from the regents last summer on his first one-year performance evaluation but requested no salary increase.
The regents have yet to complete an evaluation for the past year.
“Only the Board of Regents as whole can decide on a raise, after an assessment, which will not occur until at least August,” according to UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl, who said regents Chairman Randy Moore was traveling and unavailable for comment.
Lassner, who also was traveling, said in a statement that “it’s an incredible honor to lead our remarkable University of Hawaii system in this time of great change for public higher education across the country.”
“For me,” he added, “it’s not at all about compensation but the opportunity to give back to the institution that has done so much for me and is absolutely critical to the future of our entire state. I look forward to helping the entire UH system achieve even greater heights over the years to come.”
Unlike past UH presidents, Lassner, who holds a doctorate in communication and information sciences, said upon hiring that he would not seek a tenured faculty position to fall back on. He also declined to move into the university’s College Hill residence in Manoa and did not seek a housing allowance that past presidents were given as part of their benefits packages.