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University of Arizona president takes 10% pay cut

The Arizona Board of Regents and the University of Arizona announced that UA President Robert Robbins is taking a 10% base salary pay cut and is eliminating his individual at-risk and multiple-year performance compensation.

“The Arizona Board of Regents is committed to the University of Arizona recovering its financial health,” ABOR Chair Elect Cecilia Mata said. “Based on President Robert Robbins’ request, at its upcoming meeting, the board will schedule an action to reduce President Robbins’ base salary by 10% and eliminate his individual at-risk and multiple-year performance compensation.”

In an email to UA faculty and staff Monday morning, Robbins said he “recommended to the Arizona Board of Regents, and it has accepted, that my total compensation be significantly reduced.”

“President Robbins supports these reductions and the message they send as UArizona comes together to resolve its financial challenges and emerge from this process a stronger and more resilient institution,” Mata said.

In September 2023, ABOR approved an updated contract for Robbins that amounts to over $1 million in compensation, which includes a base annual salary of $816,008 — the most any UA president has received.

If Robbins achieved the goals set by the board, he would be eligible to receive annual and multiple-year at-risk compensation for reaching them. For example, if Robbins demonstrated “substantial progress toward enhancing the student experience and outcomes of UA Global Campus” through “an improvement in the online course completion rate, a decrease in the online student attrition rate, and the number of UAGC courses taught by faculty who are benefits-eligible,” then he would earn $30,000. Now, Robbins will not receive that bonus or any others detailed in his contract extension.

Robbins’ compensation also includes the use of the university’s presidential residence as his primary dwelling and a $10,000 annual automobile allowance.

Robbins previously took a pay cut during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, while 7,500 positions were mandated to undergo a furlough plan that saved the university about $70 million.

His compensation cut comes months after the UA announced it is facing a $177 million shortfall. University and ABOR leadership say UA’s fiscal crisis is due to several issues including its spending of reserves on “strategic” initiatives, inflation, increased student financial aid but static tuition revenue, loans to athletics, and more.

Since the announcement of UA’s fiscal woes, many faculty, staff, and students have called on UA to “chop from the top,” with some blaming Robbins and other senior leadership for its financial mismanagement.

In his Monday email, Robbins assured colleagues that “there will be no university–wide, across-the-board layoffs.”

“We are working with division and college leaders to review budget plans and to develop specific strategies for each individual unit to rightsize spend,” Robbins said. “We expect to know more about any reductions or adjustments, including potential layoffs, in late April as Fiscal Year 2025 budgets become finalized.”

The university president also announced they are no longer pursuing retirement incentives, an option that was on the table when UA announced ways it plans to mitigate its crisis.

“On the other side of this process, when the University has stabilized its finances and secured the foundation for our ongoing excellence, we will be empowered to achieve even greater successes,” Robbins said.

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