Big Sky Roundup

Salaries, naming donations, enrollment on tap for Montana Board of Regents

By: - November 17, 2021 7:51 pm

Fall morning light shines upon Main Hall at UM. (Provided by the University of Montana)

The roughly $1 million in salaries paid to three top public higher education officials in Montana is on the Board of Regents’ agenda this week — but not for increases at this time.

If approved, Commissioner Clayton Christian, Montana State University President Waded Cruzado, and University of Montana President Seth Bodnar each will earn a salary of $333,054 for the 2022 fiscal year, same as they did for the 2021 fiscal year, according to a board agenda item. The salary amounts don’t include deferred compensation for any official or a $150,000 “retention stipend” paid to Cruzado in 2021 and recommended for 2022.

Last fall, the Board of Regents approved a 2 percent increase for the three, or a bump from $326,524 of $6,530, according to the November 2020 board item. In 2019, the board approved the retention stipend for Cruzado, said Kevin McRae, deputy commissioner of human resources in the Commissioner’s Office.

She declined an offer in another state and the BOR thought it prudent to retain her,” McRae said in an email.

The Board of Regents also will take up other labor contracts and pay increases as well as several requests from campuses for facility upgrades, such as new parking facilities and a repaired Strand Union Building roof at MSU.

Construction costs are soaring, and the agenda notes UM is requesting to spend another $2 million —  of private money — for the Montana Museum of Art and Culture. The legislature approved another $2 million in spending this year for an $8 million total, but that’s not enough anymore.

“While the size of the MMAC project has remained the same, construction costs continue to rise and 2021 saw one of the highest increases ever, causing the MMAC project estimate to be now at $10,000,000,” said the agenda item.

The Regents also will hear an enrollment update. A presentation posted with the agenda notes that this fall, overall enrollment was 31,156 across the Montana University System, more than the previous year when many campuses shuttered due to COVID-19, but otherwise representing a downward trend since 2013. However, the data also note the fall is seeing the highest number of entering freshmen since 2011, with 7,068 compared to 7,313 a decade ago.

Two naming items are on the agenda, one at Montana State University and one at Montana Technological University. MSU is requesting to name the Montana State College of Nursing the Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing following a $101 million donation from the Jones family.

“The funds will enable MSU to greatly expand the number of nurses educated at MSU and provide a best-in-class nursing program with newly constructed facilities to support the college in this goal,” said the request for authorization to the Regents.

The Nursing Department at Montana Tech is requesting a rename to the Sherry Lesar School of Nursing “in tandem with a substantial private donation that allows for additional resources to invest in and grow” the department, according to the agenda item. The donation amount was not included with the agenda item and it wasn’t immediately clear if the donation already had been made.

The Board of Regents will meet Thursday and Friday, Nov. 18 and 19, at UM in Missoula.

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”