KSU job means big bucks for Sam Olens

Outgoing Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is in line to receive a significant pay increase when he becomes president of Kennesaw State University Nov. 1.

University System of Georgia officials would pay Olens $430,000 in salary and other benefits for his first year on the job, according to a letter sent to Olens Monday. Olens’ base pay as attorney general is about $140,000.

His base pay as KSU president would be $388,800. He would receive a housing allowance of $19,400 and subsistence allowance of $13,400 that would be used, in part, to host campus events, officials said. Olens would also get $8,400 as an automobile allowance.

The proposed compensation package for Olens is about $12,000 more than the salary his predecessor, Dan Papp, received, officials said. Papp retired in June after 10 years leading KSU.

University System of Georgia spokesman Charles Sutlive said the proposed housing allowance for Olens is customary for his position. Officials said Olens may host events at his home. Olens, a Cobb County resident, has said he lives less than 30 minutes from the main KSU campus.

Olens will not receive any deferred compensation and none of his salary will come from the university’s foundation, as have some other public college presidents in Georgia.

The state Board of Regents earlier this month appointed Olens to lead KSU, despite resistance from some students and faculty who complained, among other things, that he has no administrative experience on the college level. The board and supporters said Olens' his legal background and eight years as Cobb County commission chairman would make him a good president.

The average pay for a public college president in 2014 was about $428,000, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some public college presidents in Georgia make more than $1 million a year in total compensation.

James Finkelstein, who’s done extensive research on college president compensation, said the proposed package for Olens is similar to other major college presidents in Georgia.

“In the realm of presidential salaries that we’ve looked at, that would put him in the middle (nationally),” said Finkelstein, Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at George Mason University.

Finkelstein said it’s difficult to determine if Olens’ salary is out of step with college presidents who have non-traditional backgrounds like his, noting Olens may be able to make similar pay as an attorney with a private practice.