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Who’s paid the most at WKU?

This story was originally published in the Nov. 6 newsmagazine.
Alexandria Anderson
Average pay by university division

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story had a mistake in the yearly pay of Robert Hale. It has since been updated. The Herald regrets the error.

The total cost of the top 25 paid employees at WKU is $5,414,721.84 a year, with an average hourly salary of $137.67.

Top 25 Salaries at WKU
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The highest paid individual at WKU is Tyson Helton, the Hilltoppers head football coach, who makes $918,000 a year, with Renaldo Domoney, assistant vice president for budget, finance and analytics who makes $163,900, coming in at spot 25.

Pay and faculty salaries has been a recent topic of discussion after several top administrators and faculty were approved to receive large raises, while the majority of employees were informed that they would receive a 1% raise. Certain areas of the university are also being advised to reduce their spending, in order to assist with the $11 million of overspending from last year.

Jace Lux, university spokesperson, stated there are a variety of factors that influence salaries at WKU, including a comparison to similar positions at other universities and individual experience.

“Employee salaries at a university are determined by a variety of factors, including but not limited to, expectations of the job and the market for comparable positions at other institutions,” Lux said. “An individual’s career experience and length of time in a position are also significant factors in compensation decisions.”

While salary amounts for the top 25 paid individuals may seem large or obscure at first glance, James Finkelstein and Judith Wile, researchers in executive compensation, explained these compensation trends among administrators and executives in higher education are very common.

Finkelstein, professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University, began his studies on presidential assets and selection over 20 years ago, first assessing a group of university presidents who sit on corporate boards, he explained.

Finkelstein said that in the past year to year-and-a-half, they conducted a study focusing on the compensation  and salaries of the presidents of the 50 flagship institutions.

In this study, they compared what the presidents were earning 10 years ago, adjusted the price into “today’s dollars,” and compared them to what they are currently earning, Wile, research professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, said.

“While we look at the presidents, faculty often think that they are not paid fairly or with the same degree of add-ons to their salary,” Wile said.

According to their research, public university presidents are typically the most highly paid public executives in a state, “excluding coaches and perhaps a handful of medical-school faculty members.”

In the study, it was found that from 2010 to 2019, in 49 of the 50 public flagship universities, the total compensation for presidents of public flagship universities increased by 56%.

Additionally, the increase of large salaries at WKU is not uncommon when are more people in “executive” seats now than 10 years ago, Wile said.


Salary changes and pay increases for administration and faculty are due to different factors, thus potentially explaining why they may raise at different rates. Incentives like retention raises have been introduced to keep individuals from going to competing universities, Finkelstein said.

The 11 WKU administrators and staff members that received salary increases more than $5,000 are due to new contract agreements, staff turnover, reallocation of funds within departments as well as a new annual salary reflecting the addition of cell stipend to employee base salary, according to the agenda for the Board of Regents’ finance and budget committee from Oct. 17.

When looking at compensation for individuals with higher salaries versus those with lower ones, it is important
to note that everyone receives the same percentage increase, regardless of what they are currently making.

“One of the things that often happens is that raises are given in percentages, and that, for people with lower salaries, that keeps their salary lower,” Wile said. “1% of a $70,000 salary is quite different than 1% of a $150,000 salary.”

With WKU faculty, keeping the percentage at a fixed rate for all employees produces little substantial salary growth, unless there is an outside factor, like the new contract agreements or retention bonuses.

Benefits not listed in the salary are for things such as signing and retention bonuses, housing allowance, health and life insurance and deferred compensation. The total of these benefits and the base salary make up the “true value” of the salary contract, Wile said.

All of the salary numbers listed on the top 25 list of WKU employees are base salaries only, not full contracts, which may include additional payments.

According to their research, Wile said that 73% of university presidents are brand new to the position, while Finkelstein added that presidents tend to serve seven years in their seat.

“New College in Florida just named a president to the university, who has never been president before, but is a good friend of the governor,” Wile said. “They have around 750 students… and the total number of his five year contract is about $7.6 million.”


WKU President Timothy Caboni currently has a salary of $468,180, placing him at number three on the list of 25. Caboni’s contract includes a performance based bonus of 10% based on performance in different areas, such as execution of the strategic plan, according to WKU news from March 2021.

Additionally, the contract describes “a deferred compensation plan, half of which is available to President Caboni should he stay through June 30, 2024, and 100 percent if he stays through June 30, 2025.”

However, compared to other large public universities in Kentucky, Caboni has a salary that is significantly less than other presidents.

Former University of Louisville president Neeli Bendapudi received a 5-year salary increase in 2021 as reported by Wave News. She held a base salary of $875,000 a year and received an additional retention incentive payment of $200,000 a year.

“The new 5-year contract is worth more than $1 million a year in salary and incentives,” David Mattingly, reporter for Wave News, wrote.

The current president of the University of Louisville, Kim Schatzel, currently has a base salary of $925,000 a year, WDRB Louisville reported in 2022.

University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto had a base pay of $1.036 million a year and currently has a salary of $1.378 million a year, US News reported.

In 2021, Capilouto received a raise that boosted his base pay to more than $1 million that became effective Jan. 1, 2022, the Lexington-Herald Leader reported.

The Lexington-Herald Leader additionally reported that Capilouto’s current base pay is now the average base pay of the two highest paid SEC public university presidents, plus 10%.

“Capilouto was the highest paid public college executive in the country last year. With bonuses and other pay, Capilouto’s total compensation was more than $1.7 million in 2020,” as reported by Monica Kast for the Lexington-Herald Leader.

Compared to other regional universities in Kentucky, Caboni makes the most.

Eastern Kentucky University president David McFaddin earned a salary of $300,000 per year when moving from an interim to president in 2020, as reported by Eastern Kentucky University Stories.

Cady Short-Thompson was named Northern Kentucky University president in September and is set to have a base salary of $400,000 in her 4-year contract. This is compared to former NKU president Ashish Vaidya, who received a salary of $450,000 at the time of his departure, as reported by the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

Murray State University president Bob Jackson has a 4-year contract that began in 2019 and is set to receive a base salary of $325,000 a year, as reported by WEKU.

There are four full-time faculty members at WKU that are ranked within the top 25, two of which formerly held administrative positions.

Gordon Emslie, physics and astronomy professor and former provost, holds a salary of $226,672 a year, making approximately $116.24 an hour. Gordon Baylis, psychological sciences professor and former WKU vice president for research, earns a salary of $184,383 a year, making approximately $94.56 an hour.

The remaining two faculty members are both department chairs in the Gordon Ford College of Business. Whitney Peake, management department chair, makes $182,722 and Indudeep Chhachhi, finance department chair, makes $170,405.

Content Editor Molly Dobberstein can be reached at [email protected]

News Reporter Maggie Phelps can be reached at margaret.phelps370@