Colorado Mesa University's Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $450,000 per year, five-year contract for President Tim Foster this week, a deal that Chairwoman Betty Bechtel described as "worth every penny."
Foster's salary has remained the same since 2017, and the new contract does not include a raise beyond cost-of-living increases and is not substantially different from his previous contract signed in 2014.
The contract automatically renews every year for five years, and Foster is eligible for a $50,000 annual retention bonus.
Comparatively, University of Northern Colorado President Andrew Feinstein earns a $325,000 base salary and Metropolitan State University President Janine Davidson earns $300,000, according to The Denver Post.
Bechtel said Foster's pay is based on the salaries of university presidents across the country, not just in Colorado, and cited Colorado State University President Tony Frank's salary as a comparison. Frank earned $625,000 plus a $150,000 bonus this year, according to The Coloradoan.
While CSU enrolls nearly 26,000 undergraduate students and CMU enrolls more than 11,000 undergraduate students, Bechtel said Colorado Mesa is growing in that direction.
"When we started entering into this contract, we really wanted to retain President Foster," Bechtel said. "He's been outstanding for the university, the community and the state."
Bechtel said the growth Colorado Mesa has seen since Foster was hired in 2004 is remarkable.
"He's somebody who has not lost his spirit and desire to continue improving Mesa," she said. "He's not sitting on his laurels. He keeps coming up with new things and things that keep us growing and keep our student body."
While Foster's salary might cause some sticker shock for Grand Valley residents, Bechtel said, he is worth it.
"You can't compare to what the average person on the Western Slope makes. That is not our competition. We are competing with positions on a national level, so you have to look at what is competitive in that realm," Bechtel said. "I think we're very fortunate to have someone of his caliber."