New U of M president to receive annual base salary of $975,000

The university employs roughly one staff member for every 2.5 students enrolled.

Dr. Rebecca Cunningham/University of Minnesota

Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, the newly selected president of the University of Minnesota, will receive an annual base salary of $975,000.

Additionally, the incoming university president will be given six-figure retirement contributions, free housing, and annual pay increases over the term of her five-year contract.

In February, Dr. Cunningham was chosen by the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents to serve as the new president. The board’s vote was unanimous, 12-0, in favor of installing Dr. Cunningham. After her selection, the board authorized the $975,000 figure.

Dr. Cunningham is currently the “President-Designate” and will not take office until July 1. A medical doctor, Dr. Cunningham previously served as the vice president for research and innovation at the University of Michigan.

Jeff Ettinger, a former Hormel Foods CEO and 2022 Democratic congressional candidate, currently serves as the university’s interim president. Ettinger’s time as the leader of the school will officially come to an end on June 30. Occupying the office until a permanent president was found, Ettinger took over as interim president last June after the resignation of Joan Gabel.

Ettinger received an annual salary of $400,000 for his one-year term with the University of Minnesota. Gabel, the 17th president of the University of Minnesota, served in the role for roughly four years. According to the Minnesota Daily, Gabel received a base annual salary of $640,000 when she was first hired to be the university’s president in 2019. When her contract was renegotiated in 2021, Gabel’s salary increased to $660,000 and later to $706,000.

As such, incoming president Cunningham’s base salary will far exceed the one awarded to Gabel. However, Gabel’s contract with the University of Minnesota also included annual retirement contributions of $250,000 and a $100,000 performance bonus. The retirement contributions received by Cunningham will be smaller but still exorbitant.

For the first year of her employment, Dr. Cunningham will receive a retirement contribution of $120,000. That number will increase over the course of her tenure until she receives $150,000 in retirement contributions in the fifth and final year of the contract.

Meanwhile, many students at the University of Minnesota are forced to take on tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to even attend the school. Furthermore, many parents are forced to make difficult financial decisions in order to help their children afford a college education.

In addition to the retirement contributions and base salary, the University of Minnesota will provide Dr. Cunningham with free housing in the form of a mansion known as Eastcliff. Built in 1922, Eastcliff became the official residence of the University of Minnesota president in the 1950s. Since then, university presidents have used it as both a private residence and a venue to host university functions.

Dr. Cunningham’s employment agreement stipulates that the doctor must use the mansion as a “personal residence and to use Eastcliff for University related business and entertainment on a regular and continuing basis.”

In addition to furnishing the mansion, the University of Minnesota “will provide and pay for all maintenance, repairs, utilities, cleaning services, insurance (other than for President’s and President’s family’s personal property), grounds keeping and landscaping for Eastcliff.”

However, Eastcliff will be unavailable for Dr. Cunningham’s immediate use. Currently, Gov. Tim Walz and his family are occupying Eastcliff while the Governor’s Mansion undergoes a nearly $13 million renovation. That renovation is scheduled to be completed in September.

In the last several years, the University of Minnesota has experienced no noticeable increase in enrollment. Across all its various campuses, the University of Minnesota currently has 68,366 students. Since the 2011-12 academic year, total enrollment has fluctuated back-and-forth between 69,000 students and 66,000 students.

Over the same period of time, the cost of tuition has continued to rise. For the 2011-12 academic year, the cost of tuition at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was $13,062. Today, the cost is $16,654. (For the 1970-71 academic year, tuition to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was $522.)

The University of Minnesota employs 27,675 people across its campuses. This includes faculty, administrative staff, and others. As such, the university employs roughly one staff member for every 2.5 students enrolled.


Luke Sprinkel

Luke Sprinkel previously worked as a Legislative Assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives. He grew up as a Missionary Kid (MK) living in England, Thailand, Tanzania, and the Middle East. Luke graduated from Regent University in 2018.