Two public university presidents in Mississippi now make almost $1 million a year each while pay for faculty and staff at the state’s eight universities remains stagnant. 

The hefty salaries are largely, but not entirely, due to the private foundations for the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University supplementing the state salaries for Glenn Boyce and Mark Keenum, respectively. 

Both presidents now pull $950,000 a year, with taxpayers supporting $500,000 of their salaries and the foundations making up the rest, according to IHL board meeting minutes

That constitutes a $100,000 raise, which Keenum and Boyce received after the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees conducted performance reviews for the two presidents at the end of last year, John Sewell, a spokesperson, wrote in an email.  

“University presidents play a critical role not only at their respective institutions but across the state,” Sewell wrote, “as Mississippi’s public university system is poised to have an $8 billion impact on Mississippi’s economy over the next six years.” 

The board also reviewed Nora Miller, the president of Mississippi University for Women, but Miller did not receive a raise, and it’s unclear if she requested one. Miller will continue to make $300,000, plus a $5,000 foundation supplement, in her new four-year contract. 

When Miller was hired in 2018, the state paid her $215,000, and she received a $30,000 foundation supplement, according to IHL board records. In 2022, the board gave every college president a raise and reduced the foundation supplements to $5,000 for every university but Ole Miss and Mississippi State. 

Last month, the board also approved significant “retention” plans for Boyce and Keenum, a kind of bonus paid for by the university foundations that no other college president in Mississippi receives. Keenum has an opportunity to get up to $1.4 million from the MSU foundation if he stays at Mississippi State through the end of his contract in 2028, and Boyce can receive up to $800,000 from the one at Ole Miss. 

It is unclear if either president is planning to retire or leave their universities. While Mississippi taxpayers pay the university presidents significant sums of money, the board considers its salary decisions confidential. 

Sewell declined to answer further questions about the purpose of the plans, writing that “information about specific evaluations and salary decisions are personnel matters and are considered confidential.” 

A document obtained by Mississippi Today last year shows the criteria the board used to evaluate the eight college presidents as of January 2023, including “provides effective leadership in enrollment management,” “supports initiatives and programs that promote student retention” and “provides effective leadership in acquiring and sustaining regional and professional accreditations.” 

Under Keenum, the National Science Foundation has ranked Mississippi State as a top research institution. Boyce’s “Now and Ever” campaign has raised more than $1.5 billion in private support for Ole Miss. 

“I am most grateful to the IHL trustees, Commissioner Rankins, and our university foundation board members for their vote of confidence in my leadership,” Boyce said in a statement. “More importantly, I am mindful that our university is thriving because of the unending commitment of our faculty and staff to deliver on our mission of education, research, service and healthcare each and every day.”

The IHL board first approved retention pay for Boyce in 2022. When the board granted Keenum that opportunity in 2021, he asked the Mississippi State University Foundation to “use a majority—if not all—of this incentive for scholarships.” 

Sid Salter, an MSU spokesperson, declined to answer questions about whether the foundation used Keenum’s retention pay for scholarships. 

“The portions of those compensation packages that may rely on private MSU Foundation funds are not required to be disclosed beyond what the College Board has already provided,” Salter wrote. “The university has no additional comment.” 

The IHL board also released its legislative priorities for the next year, including increasing pay for faculty and staff who make less than average compared to their peers at other Southern universities. 

Since 2016, the average faculty member in Mississippi has actually seen a nearly $11,000 pay cut due to inflation, according to an analysis of federal data. In fall 2022, the average faculty salary in Mississippi was $68,676. 

Though IHL has obtained nominal wage increases for faculty and staff, inflation and health insurance premium increases have put meaningful raises out of reach, the board has said. 

READ MORE: ‘USM’s new president making $650,000; all public college presidents saw raises this year

Higher education reporter at Mississippi Today in partnership with Open Campus.