Louisiana’s new higher education commissioner will make a $350,000 a year — about 27 percent more than last person who had the job.
Joseph Rallo, who has been in Baton Rouge this week to learn more about Louisiana’s higher education systems, will officially take on the commissioner’s role Jan. 2.
The state Board of Regents on Wednesday unanimously approved his contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2017.
“I feel the contract is fair and equitable,” said Regents Chairman Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry.
Rallo, who is finishing up a seven-year tenure with the Texas Tech System, was selected for the post earlier this month after a round of closed-door meetings with potential candidates and then public interviews with Rallo and one other finalist.
“I look forward to the adventure,” Rallo said after the board signed off on his contract Wednesday.
Former Higher Education Commissioner Jim Purcell didn’t seek a contract renewal earlier this year after reportedly clashing with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration over repeated state funding cuts to higher education.
Purcell, who served as commissioner for three years at a $275,000 salary, now serves as commissioner of higher education in Rhode Island.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved a request from the Board of Regents and passed legislation that removed legislative authority over the commissioner’s salary.
At the time, board members argued the salary increase would allow them to woo better candidates for the job.
Rallo, who has a 27-year career in higher education roles, also has served in the Navy and Air Force, speaks multiple languages, has studied European law and Russian history, and is seen as an expert on global policy.
The board said it had about 25 people who were interested or recommended for the commissioner’s job earlier this year but repeatedly has declined to identify anyone other than Rallo and two other finalists who were named in September.
Still, at least one board member praised the process and its transparency during Wednesday’s meeting.
“We did it with full disclosure and access,” said board member Joseph Wiley. “We had no controversy in any part of it.”
He also praised the result.
“We selected an imminently qualified candidate,” he said.
Louisiana’s higher education commissioner oversees implementation of state-level policies, as well as coordination between Louisiana’s college and university systems, which means 38 institutions, a $2.6 billion budget and more than 217,000 students.
Rallo served as president of Angelo State University for five years before he became system vice chancellor for the Texas Tech System in 2012. He recently was named senior adviser for global engagement at Texas Tech.