ATLANTA — Officials are considering paying retiring University of Georgia President Michael Adams more than $2 million over five years after he steps down from the helm of the flagship campus, according to documents released Friday.
Under an agreement signed by Chancellor Hank Huckaby last week, Adams would get $660,000 per year for two years and $258,000 annually for three years. That’s in addition to $600,000 in deferred compensation “for significant contributions to the institution,” according to the agreement released by the University System of Georgia under an open-records request.
Adams, 64, announced Thursday he plans to retire next year after 16 years at the helm of the university. He plans to join the UGA faculty. He will hold the title of president emeritus and professor for two years and then will be a professor after that.
“It’s a lot of money. There’s no getting away from that, but we’re here to celebrate the job he’s done,” Board of Regents Chairman Ben Tarbutton said. “It is a generous package – some may say too generous – but we’re excited about where we are and we’re really closing this chapter and beginning to look forward.”
A UGA spokesman did not return a request for comment. Adams did not return a message left at his home.
The agreement must gain approval from the state Board of Regents next week before it’s official. Tarbutton said he believes the package will be approved.
Such packages are common for university presidents, experts say. Often, it’s because a board wants to buy out the rest of the president’s contract or has promised large sums in deferred compensation.
At Rutgers University in New Jersey, President Richard McCormick is getting $335,000 annually since he retired and returned to teaching last year. He had a clause in his contract guaranteeing he’d be the highest paid professor on campus if ever stepped down and joined the faculty.
“At a time when public universities in particular are under great financial stress and increasing tuition costs are viewed as an increasing burden upon students and their families, presidential compensation of all kinds is a huge pressure point,” said Jack Stripling, a senior reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education who writes about executive compensation. “Parting pay packages for presidents have emerged as an item of particular concern in the last several years.”
Adams’ salary will be far above what most of his colleagues in the faculty ranks make. According to the American Association of University Professors, fulltime faculty at UGA make between $52,500 and $107,800 per year, on average depending on their level of seniority and the subject they teach.
“It’s very clear they must have felt there was value to this, there was a clear advantage to the state of Georgia through President Adams teaching and the things he’s going to do for the state while he earns the money,” said Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the state’s higher education budget. “The Regents can turn around and rescind this if he leaves the state and doesn’t do any work.”