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Rolly: WGU's president is Utah's highest-paid college boss

Published December 14, 2012 4:53 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you can land the top job at former Gov. Mike Leavitt's online-education brainchild, Western Governors University, you have a pretty good gig.

WGU President Robert W. Mendenhall receives a total compensation package of $827,501, according to a recently released report from the Chronicle of Higher Eduction. That makes him the highest-paid executive of the private colleges listed in the same category as WGU — although he doesn't come close to presidents of some larger private colleges, several of whom make millions every year.

WGU is an accredited private, nonprofit, online university, whose offices are based in Salt Lake County. Founded in the late 1990s by Leavitt and 18 other governors, it has about 25,000 students and has awarded more than 10,000 degrees.

The report compared Mendenhall's compensation with 11 other private colleges in the same category. The figures are from 2010, the latest data available from Internal Revenue Service records.

Mendenhall's base salary actually was slashed from $698,231 in 2009 to $318,501 in 2010. But he received $465,500 in bonus pay in 2010 and no bonus in 2009. That gave him a 13 percent increase in total compensation over the previous year.

The report noted that the highest-paid private college president was Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska governor and senator, whose total compensation topped $3 million as the then-head of The New School in New York. It said that 36 private college presidents made more than $1 million.

But none of those was listed in the same category as WGU. The Chronicle said it determines "similar colleges" through an algorithm that includes such factors as enrollment size, percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, percentage of students considered on track to graduate and admission rate.

The latest figures for the University of Utah president show a total compensation of $524,504 and, for Utah State University, $402,667.

Pretty good sport • In response to my column item Friday about Ashley Sumner's news release announcing she is the new communications director for the House Democratic Caucus that failed to mention her first name, she sent me a dozen cupcakes from Mrs. Backer's Pastry Shop.

The accompanying card contained two sheets of paper on which "I will not forget that my name is Ashley Sumner" is written 63 times.

She may have a PR future after all.

Consumer alert • If you plan to shop at a state liquor store during this busy holiday season and notice any customers ahead of you with open cases heading to the checkout counter, you might want to make sure you have brought a sack lunch and a sleeping bag.

Workers at some stores are complaining about a new rule that requires them to scan every bottle separately from a case of beer if that case has been unsealed.

If you have shopped at the government-controlled liquor store during a previous Christmastime, you know that you already are in for a lengthy wait. In fact, as the holiday nears, security guards will be posted at the doors to let groups of people in at a time to ensure the store is never too crowded.

Despite the wait and inconvenience to customers and the ulcer-causing aggravation to the checkout clerks, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control found it necessary to initiate the rule in August.

DABC spokeswoman Vickie Ashby said the new policy resulted from an audit recommendation and has "greatly improved the accuracy of DABC's inventory counts."

Customers often mix beverages in open cases, causing them to be entered incorrectly at the cash register.

But some DABC clerks say this is a typical government solution to a small problem. Clerks, they say, can view what's in the boxes, and if there are some bottles of a different brand, just pull one of those out to scan.

What a concept!

prolly@sltrib.com