Though University President Mary Sue Coleman has turned down and returned salary increases in recent years, citing declining state funding and a weak Michigan economy, she was awarded a 4-percent raise yesterday at the University Board of Regents’ first monthly meeting of the school year. And indications are, she’s keeping it.

University President Mary Sue Coleman addresses the boar of Regent’s on Thursday afternoon.

The raise boosted her annual base salary to $553,500.

In a letter read aloud by Regent Andrew Richner (R-Grosse Pointe Park), the board approved the raise to “reflect the full and unqualified support this board wishes to express for the performance of President Coleman in leading our university.”

Richner said the personnel committee compared data from presidents of private and public university peers when considering Coleman’s increase, and found the raise “consistent with this data.”

“President Coleman’s efforts, along with those of the strong leadership team she has assembled, have resulted in dramatically increased financial aid for our students, new endowed chairs, hiring of new faculty, more graduate fellowships, and new and renovated facilities,” Richner said.

He went on to say that Coleman has demonstrated “excellent stewardship of our financial resources” and “put the University in a strong financial position in the face of challenging economic times.”

After the letter was read, Coleman responded: “Thank you, and I am extremely grateful for your vote of confidence, thank you.”

A rousing round of applause ensued from the regents and other top University officials in attendance.

“I think I have to call a vote,” Coleman said with a laugh.

The regents then voted unanimously in favor of the increase.

In a phone interview Thursday night, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said the raise was justified.

“The board did a careful analysis of what other top executives’ salaries are, and this is a very appropriate increase,” she said.

Last year, the regents approved a 3-percent salary hike for Coleman, which she donated to University graduate and professional programs. Her base salary last year was $531,000.

At yesterday’s meeting, Coleman made no indication that she planned to donate her pay raise back to the University.

When asked if Coleman is presumably accepting the raise this year, Cunningham said, “That is correct.”

The raise comes as the state continues to cut funding to higher education. Michigan state funding for colleges and universities has dropped by 11 percent in the last six years, while the average state has boosted higher education appropriations by 23 percent.

The salary hike also comes on the heels of a 5.6 percent tuition increase for University students, approved by the regents at their June meeting. Tuition for an in-state freshman now stands at $11,037 a year.

Since becoming president in 2002, Coleman has been given a small raise every year. The increases have usually been on par with similar raises for faculty and staff, but had never exceeded 3.5 percent.

In a survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education last year, Coleman ranked sixth among the highest compensated public University presidents.

Along with her compensation from the University, Coleman also gets paid for her membership on the corporate boards of both Johnson & Johnson and Meredith Corporation. Last year, the Chronicle listed her minimum annual pay for membership on those boards as $331,226.

— Amy Munslow contributed to this report.

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