SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah State Board of Regents on Monday voted unanimously to defer raises for state university and college presidents -- the very raises the board unanimously approved last month.
The raises were based on a preliminary internal study of salaries of presidents at similar-sized universities and colleges elsewhere in the nation.
The raises would have increased salaries for the presidents of eight Utah institutions from 2.8 percent to 12.5 percent, depending on the school.
The Board of Regents' plan was to award the initial increases based on its own salary research and perhaps adjust salaries again after a more comprehensive study.
But in a Sept. 26 letter, Gov. Gary R. Herbert asked board Chairman David Jordan to consider deferring the immediate raises and to wait for the results of a comprehensive study before changing presidents' salaries.
"As you consider that analysis, I trust you will also be sensitive to our current economic climate and state budgetary constraints," Herbert wrote.
"Given the current environment, I request that the Board of Regents hold off on salary increases pending the results of the study."
The Utah Department of Education's preliminary study had found that presidents' salaries in Utah are as much as 30 percent lower than the median salaries of their peers in comparable universities outside the state.
Holly Braithwaite, director of communications for Higher Ed Utah, said the board's initial decision Sept. 16 to increase salaries was based on its desire to recruit and retain the best and the brightest presidents.
The University of Utah is currently accepting applications for president, but offers significantly less pay than is given to presidents of comparable institutions, she said.
Utah Commissioner of Higher Education William Sederberg said Monday he hopes, by early 2012, to call for bids from consulting agencies interested in conducting a comprehensive comparable-salary study.
Once the bid is awarded, he would expect the report to be completed by April or May 2012.
"Once the study is complete, the issue of raises could come up again," Braithwaite said.
The U of U already is accepting applications for the president's position, so any increase approved in the spring or later might come too late to increase the pool of qualified applicants for the job.
Braithwaite said if a new U of U president is hired prior to a salary increase, his or her salary would increase when and if the raise is approved for all eight of Utah's state colleges, which include Weber State University in Ogden, Utah State University in Logan, Southern Utah University, Snow College, Dixie State College, Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College.
Braithwaite confirmed that, for any raise ordered by the state Board of Regents, the funding would come from the existing budgets of the presidents' colleges or universities.
WSU President F. Ann Millner said before Monday's deferral announcement that she would donate her allotted 9.5 percent raise, more than $18,000, to WSU scholarships and various student and faculty programs.