FGCU trustees approve 5-year contract for Bradshaw, wrestle with possible funding cuts

Wilson G. Bradshaw, President of Florida Gulf Coast University address facility and staff during the President's State of the University Address.  This is the third time that Bradshaw has participated in the Welcome Back Celebration since being named president of the University in 2008.  Hundreds of faculty and staff gathered at Alico Arena on August 17, 2010 for FGCU's annual Welcome Back Celebration and the President's State of the University Address.  A little less than 90 faculty and staff were hired or reinstated into new positions since August of last year. Staff/Manuel Martinez

Photo by MANUEL MARTINEZ // Buy this photo

Wilson G. Bradshaw, President of Florida Gulf Coast University address facility and staff during the President's State of the University Address. This is the third time that Bradshaw has participated in the Welcome Back Celebration since being named president of the University in 2008. Hundreds of faculty and staff gathered at Alico Arena on August 17, 2010 for FGCU's annual Welcome Back Celebration and the President's State of the University Address. A little less than 90 faculty and staff were hired or reinstated into new positions since August of last year. Staff/Manuel Martinez

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Looming financial hardship did not prevent Florida Gulf Coast University trustees from approving a new five-year contract with perks for President Wilson Bradshaw at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Trustee Douglas Harrison was the lone vote against the terms of the Bradshaw’s contract, which includes $358,864 in base pay with potential for 5 percent annual raises and retention bonuses as high as $80,000 a year.

Harrison asked whether such a salary would send mixed messages in a time when the state could deny additional funding and force the university to hike tuition or increase class size. Trustees grappled with alternative plans for funding if the state denies $13 million outlined in FGCU’s 2012 legislative agenda.

“We hear about shared sacrifice, about the urgent need to do much more with much less. This kind of compensation package sends the message that we don’t get it,” Harrison said. “I have a real fear and concern this plan will erode our image on campus and in the community.”

However, board member Edward Morton said FGCU needed to pay its leader a competitive salary.

“We are about to enter some of the most tumultuous, difficult times, and I believe we need a steady hand on the tiller, and we need to make sure that same individual maintains their hand on that tiller,” Morton said to agreement from other board members.

Bradshaw’s contract proved comparable to salaries of presidents at 78 similar universities, the State University System of Florida, and nine “aspirational” universities according to a study by MGT of America Inc. of Tallahassee. Base pay for the first year of the new contract, beginning July 1, 2012, is the same as what the president is receiving this year, the last year of his current five-year contract.

Bradshaw received a raise at the June trustees meeting to get him to his current pay.

Harrison offered to read complaints from faculty about the differing rewards systems saying “We see one person in the institution rewarded as if we’re thriving while the rest tighten our belts.”

This year, faculty and staff will receive a $1,000 one-time bonus Oct. 1, and a 2 percent pay raise Jan. 1.

Harrison worried that paying a leader according to rates at those nine aspirational institutions was ill advised considering FGCU does not meet other standards employed at such universities.

“We have lower graduation rates and SAT scores. We spend less per (full time equivalent student) and on instruction and more on administrative salaries and costs,” Harrison said. “There are risks in the approach to using data.”

Bradshaw thanked the board for approving his contract, which begins July 1, 2012 and extends through 2017. It includes a possible 5 percent increase in the annual base salary pending a positive review of his performance by board of trustees members.

The board can also award bonuses of up to $80,000 annually depending on retention and performance incentives. Bradshaw will continue to receive a $50,000 housing allowance, travel reimbursement for his spouse, and $8,000 in annual reimbursement under his long-term disability insurance policy should he become disabled.

As Bradshaw’s salary increases, so does the student body with record enrollment of 12,600 students this year, a 5 percent increase from last year. University officials said the goal is to add 500 new beds to campus next school year.

“We have plenty of land to build new dorms on,” said Steven Magiera, vice president for university advancement.

The university purchased a 24-acre plot of land for about $5 million near West Lake Village for the new dorm, Osprey Hall. New housing is responsible for $173.6 million of the university’s nearly $202 million in bond debt. Construction of parking garages and an addition to the Student Union are responsible for the rest.

Aside from physical growth, FGCU has added six new academic programs since 2007 and has plans for eight more by 2013.

The university has asked for $13 million in recurring funds from the state in its 2012 legislative initiative, citing underfunding from the New Florida Initiative.

The initiative gives state universities money for each full-time equivalent student enrolled. Most universities do not receive full funding for all FTE students, but FGCU receives only 66 percent compared to an average of 90 percent at three other state institutions.

Because FGCU is entitled to the FTE funding like all other state universities, officials are hopeful those funds will be awarded. If they are not, Plan B is to raise tuition in the double digits, at or near the state’s 15 percent yearly cap on tuition increases.

“I think we have to speak loudly on this and take a firm stand on this $13 million we’re entitled,” said trustee Robbie Roepstorff. “We don’t want to be the only ones out there throwing in 15 percent tuition increases.”

Bradshaw said Plan C involves cost-saving measures.

“We will continue to realize new efficiencies,” he said. “Class size will have to go up a tick or two, and also we will have a slower rate of growth. That cuts into revenue, but we won’t have as many students coming in each year.”

Bradshaw said an increasing number of students have applied at FGCU, proving the current tuition rates are not a hindrance despite concern from some board members.

“We’re admitting as many students as we can accommodate now,” Bradshaw said. “If we had more capacity, we could admit even more students. The number of applications this year were higher than last year. Our product is highly desired by an increasing amount of students and (students) outside our region. We’re not at a price point where it’s an obstacle to attending FGCU.”

FGCU has also asked for funding from the Public Education Capital Outlay to make up for the $4.5 million in funding denied by the state for completion of the new health professions building.

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