State System of Higher Ed names Florida administrator to be chancellor
By Debra Erdley
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013, 11:00 a.m.
After a six-month search shrouded in secrecy, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education hired Florida university executive and former Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan to lead Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.
A spokesman said members of the system's Board of Governors on Wednesday voted unanimously to hire Brogan, effective Oct. 1, at a salary of $327,500, with a house in Harrisburg, pension and insurance benefits and a car.
The system has an annual budget of approximately $1.55 billion and includes Indiana, California and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania. Although the position is the highest-paying job in Pennsylvania state government, it pays less than the $357,000 a year Brogan earned in Florida.
Brogan, who is married and has an 8-year-old son, will be the fourth chancellor in the Pennsylvania system's 31-year history and the third consecutive one to come from Florida. He takes charge of a system with about 115,000 students that is facing a third consecutive year of declining enrollment, as well as shrinking state support and pressure to cap tuition increases.
His tenure as chancellor of the 12-campus State University System of Florida, which has 335,000 students, began in 2009 and coincided with an enrollment increase of 25,000 students and a 45 percent reduction in state support. The system's website says average tuition and fees at the schools increased from $3,808 a year in 2008-09 to $6,155 for 2013-14.
Tom Auxter, president of the United Faculty of Florida, the union that represents faculty at the state universities, said Brogan was a consensus builder who rallied support for the universities and persuaded lawmakers to restore $300 million in reserve funds and increase state support by 6 percent for 2013-14 after years of cuts.
“We had to eliminate programs with low enrollments and make some cuts in faculty and staff. But now that the recovery is beginning (the state) is putting money back into higher education,” Auxter said.
Brogan said he planned to leave Florida, where he has worked in government and education for 35 years, at the end of his five-year chancellor's contract under the terms of a DROP pension benefit. He's leaving one year early.
The plan allows long-serving employees to begin massing reduced pension benefits in an interest-bearing trust account five years prior to retirement. A spokeswoman for the State University System of Florida said Brogan took a version of the DROP benefit that will give him a partial lump-sum payment and monthly payments when he leaves the Florida retirement system. How much he will collect is unclear.
Brogan said he jumped at the chance to apply for the Pennsylvania position. He said he would have applied even if the board had not voted to keep candidates' names confidential, the first time it has done so.
“I am excited to join PASSHE in its commitment to provide high-quality, affordable higher educational opportunities for Pennsylvania's families,” Brogan said.
He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in education from the University of Cincinnati and Florida Atlantic University. He will be the first chancellor in the Pennsylvania State System to have held elective office as well as the first to lack a doctorate.
He said he began working toward the degree twice but set it aside when he became Florida's commissioner of education and again when he became lieutenant governor.
Brogan began his career in 1978 as an elementary school teacher in Martin County, Fla., where he later became a school superintendent. He was elected Florida's Commissioner of Education in 1995 and served as lieutenant governor under Republican Gov. Jeb Bush from 1999 until 2003, when he became president of Florida Atlantic.
Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said Brogan has always been viewed more as an educator than a politician.
“I think he returned to his first love when he went back to education,” she said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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