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In the first day of its annual two-day September meeting in Flagstaff, the Arizona Board of Regents approved both a contract extension for Northern Arizona President Rita Cheng and her award of at-risk compensation for goals achieved.

Unanimously, and with little discussion, the board approved contract extensions and at-risk compensation on Thursday for all three state university presidents.

With the extension, Cheng’s contract will now run through June 30, 2021, and she is to receive $35,000 in at-risk compensation.

“I am thankful for the confidence that the board has placed in me as we work toward the attainment goals for our state,” Cheng said. “It’s an honor to work with the Flagstaff community and the talented faculty and staff at Northern Arizona University.”

According to ABOR Communications Director Julie Newberg, each Arizona university president is assigned specific goals every year, and if they reach their goals they are paid at-risk compensation. The additional compensation, Newberg said, is at-risk because if the presidents don’t meet their goals, they won’t receive the money.

“Each president is responsible for the operation and strategic planning for their institution as well as meeting key metrics outlined in the board’s strategic plan such as increasing graduation rates, student retention and research,” she said. “Presidents are also responsible for meeting at-risk compensation goals or payment based on performance that is dependent upon achievement of goals that are assigned by the board.”

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Newberg said the goals reflect the strategic plan to drive student success, deliver a high-quality education, advance educational attainment in Arizona, discover new knowledge, create new collaborations, inventions and technology to enhance lives, and to positively impact the state of Arizona.

The at-risk pay the board approved yesterday were all specific to the 2017-18 university-specific goals and include:

  • Providing a comprehensive plan to the board regarding current and proposed strategies to promote student access and success, including evaluation of, coordination of, and reconsideration of or elimination of existing, less effective interventions. For meeting this goal, Cheng receives $15,000.
  • Providing a comprehensive report with financial plan to the board on NAU’s education programs, evaluating NAU’s relationships with K-12 partners, assessing effectiveness and proposing plans for expansion, elimination, and modification of education and outreach programs to align with K-12 needs, NAU and board metrics and Achieve60AZ goals. For meeting this goal, Cheng receives $10,000.
  • Providing a comprehensive evaluation of and plan for targeted graduate education, including priority areas for NAU research and related tenure-track faculty recruitment along with needed improvements to graduate student recruitment. For meeting this goal, Cheng receives $10,000.

Cheng was also assigned five three-year goals in 2017 that include achieving strategic goals in freshmen retention, research, bachelor’s degrees and enrollment as well as evaluating business practices and the university’s academic organizational structure. She has until 2020 to complete these long-term goals, and if if all three are completed, she would receive $90,000.

In June, ABOR approved Cheng's first raise in her four years as NAU president, increasing her base salary from $390,000 to $475,000. Arizona State's Michael Crow has a base salary of $690,000 and UA president Robert Robbins is at $675,000. All three presidents are scheduled to receive a 3.5 percent increase in base salary on Sept. 1 of each of the next three years.

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