Capilouto’s pay increase: Justified or excessive?


UK president Eli Capilouto speaks to new students during the Wildcat Welcome Ceremony on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Kaleb Littleton

Amidst the turmoil of the pandemic, UK president Eli Capilouto will soon get a significant pay raise. The announcement was made on Dec. 14 in an email from Robert Vance, the chair of the Board of Trustees.

The change to Capilouto’s contract will raise his base pay by $200,000 to just over a million dollars. This is the first notable raise he has gotten since 2015 and comes with a number of other benefits. The chief among these is a modification so that he will always have at least three years left on his contract.

This announcement came on the same day the Biden administration announced that the student loan relief program will end on Feb. 1, 2022. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “A smooth transition back into repayment is a high priority for the administration.”

This is in a climate where student loan borrowers across the U.S. collectively owe $1.73 trillion

The fact that Capilouto is getting a raise isn’t that surprising. Inflation is setting in, so it’s natural that the board might try to inflation-proof his contract. 

To his credit, Capiluoto has several successes under his belt.  Wages for university employees have been raised, enrollment numbers are increasing and, as of Dec. 13, the university has an 89% vaccination rate even though the student body doesn’t have a vaccine mandate. 

But that jump to his annual salary is too much. It’s one thing to increase his rate, but it’s another to raise his salary by $200,000. If someone were to make $15 an hour at full time, it would take six years for them to earn the amount of his raise alone. And for many people in the U.S., $15 an hour is a lot more than they make.

I’m not suggesting that Capilouto should work for pennies, because he has a lot on his plate. Due to the nature of his position, somewhere in the back of my head I figured that he would make six figures. 

To his credit, under his watch, UK’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital is nationally ranked in a few different specialties, funding for research grants is at an all time high and the rates for tuition aren’t as bad as they could be.

Still, that is an intense amount of money as a raise. By the university’s own admission in the email, “That number represents publicly available data for the average of the two highest paid SEC public university presidents, plus 10 percent.” 

So Capilouto is now among the highest paid presidents in the SEC.

A reasonable question would be: where is the money coming from? UK facilities keep expanding, with construction being an omnipresent part of day-to-day life on campus. This includes the relatively new fancy esports arena in the Cornerstone Exchange building.

Likewise, men’s basketball coach John Calipari makes $8 million a year, and football coach Mark Stoops makes $5 million a year. So where are they making the money to justify all of these new investments, Capilouto’s raise and the above mentioned salaries for the coaches of two sports?

UK spends a lot to pay these coaches and Capilouto, and it begs the question — should these few men be millionaires while our professors with equally heavy work loads are in the middle class? 

Our campus workers still do not make a living wage, either. The new wage for UK workers as of Jan. 1, $15 an hour, is an improvement from the minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. 

These workers who we rely on for food and cleanliness of our institution, among other things, have bills, families and life to pay for. Despite the increase, $15 still is not enough — especially when people at UK are hoarding wealth. 

Student finances are hard to balance, too. In the last few weeks, I spent a notable portion of my bank account to prepare for graduation in a job climate where I don’t know if my degree will actually get me anywhere.

This coming out the same day that Biden announces an end to the student loan relief program feels like a punch to the gut. The U.S. is in the middle of a massive student debt crisis, so the idea of Capilouto’s yearly wage being raised that much does not sit well in my stomach. 

Maybe there’s something that UK has in the wings to justify that huge number, but that jump is still startlingly high.