Car illustration

Kent State pays thousands of dollars a month in vehicle stipends to coaches and administrators. 

Kent State pays $650 monthly vehicle stipends to 17 members of the president’s cabinet, as well as a $1,500 stipend to President Todd Diacon, according to public records obtained by KentWired. 

Employees who receive monthly stipends also are also eligible for mileage reimbursement for the business miles they travel at a rate of 25 cents per mile, said Eric Mansfield, executive director of university media relations. Employees who do not receive stipends are eligible for mileage reimbursement at 57.5 cents per mile. Diacon’s stipend is the same amount former President Beverly Warren received. 

In total, 57 university employees receive monthly vehicle stipends, including 21 employees in administrative positions and 36 coaches and employees in the athletic department.

Members of the president’s cabinet who receive monthly vehicle stipends include: 

  • Paul DiCorleto, vice president of research and sponsored programs

  • Mark Polatajko, senior vice president of finance and administration 

  • Nathan Ritchey, vice president for Kent State System Integration 

  • Joel Nielsen, director of athletics 

  • Charlene Reed, vice president and university secretary 

  • Denise Seachrist, interim dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Stark 

  • Susan Stocker, dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Ashtabula 

  • Daniel Palmer, interim dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Trumbull 

  • Stephen Sokany, vice president for institutional advancement

  • David Dees, dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Salem and Kent State East Liverpool 

  • Angela Spalsbury, dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Geauga 

  • Alfreda Brown, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion

  • Bradley Bielski, dean and chief administrative officer at Kent State Tuscarawas

  • Nicholas Gattozzi, executive director of government and community relations

  • Lamar Hylton, interim vice president of student affairs 

  • John Rathje, vice president for information technology and chief information officer

  • Mary Parker, vice president of enrollment management 

What is a vehicle stipend? 

Although it is not required by federal or state law, some universities compensate employees when they drive their personal vehicles for business-related matters. This compensation, designed to cover costs like fuel, typically comes in one of two forms: a mileage reimbursement or a vehicle stipend. 

With a mileage reimbursement, employees submit documentation of their business-related travels and their employer reimburses them based on a standard mileage rate set every year by the IRS. The amount employees receive from mileage reimbursements can vary, depending on the number of miles they drive. 

Kent State provides mileage reimbursement to faculty and staff who drive their privately-owned cars for university business, according to the university policy register. Employees who do not receive stipends are eligible for mileage reimbursement at the IRS’s standard rate of 57.5 cents per mile. 

A vehicle stipend, also known as a car allowance, is a fixed amount of money employees receive over a period of time. Unlike mileage reimbursement, vehicle stipends do not change based on the amount of driving an employee does. 

Kent State pays stipends to employees who routinely travel between the university’s eight campuses, Mansfield said. The policy register states eligible employees include the president, executive officers and others approved by the president.

“It's typically employees who are expected to regularly traverse between the eight campus system or like the president, the deans of the regional colleges, VPs,” Mansfield said. “They're typically provided a vehicle stipend because it supports those transportation costs.”

In addition, Mansfield said some coaches and employees in the athletic department receive vehicle stipends because they travel for athletic events and to recruit players. Stipends are intended to cover the cost of the vehicle and maintenance, Mansfield said. 

The vice president for administration determines the amount of stipend an employee gets from “time to time,” according to the university policy register. Mark Polatajko, senior vice president of finance and administration, directed KentWired’s request for comment to Mansfield. Mansfield said the university reviews this provision using its standard policies of a market scan and benchmarking. He also said that “no changes have been proposed in recent policy revisions.”

Employees who receive vehicle stipends are not required to provide mileage or usage records unless they are submitting for mileage reimbursement. Diacon is also eligible for mileage reimbursement. 

Ohio University, the University of Toledo and Wright State University don’t provide mileage reimbursement to employees who receive vehicle stipends. Youngstown State University does not provide mileage reimbursement to employees with car allowances unless they drive more than 50 miles per day.  

Compensation in higher ed

At public universities across the country, vehicle stipends continue to be a common benefit included in presidents’ contracts, said James Finkelstein, professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University. Finkelstein spent more than 20 years researching university presidents and their compensation during his career. 

Finkelstein and Judith Wilde, chief operating officer at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, conducted a study of the contracts of presidents at 115 public universities in the United States. Finkelstein and Wilde found that 104 of the contracts mentioned cars. 58 universities provided their presidents with a car, while 46 gave them a yearly car allowance, which ranged from $6,000 to $78,000. 

Wilde said vehicle stipends and other similar benefits provided to university presidents and high-level administrators tend to originate in the corporate world. 

“For the most part, when you see a perk arriving in or being used in higher ed, it's because it's already being done in the corporate world,” Wilde said. 

However, Finkelstein said many corporate leaders earn fewer perks today than presidents at public universities, as a result of companies evaluating the salaries of their high-level employees and questioning whether they need these benefits. 

“The corporate world is essentially saying, ‘You know, our corporate CEO is making several million dollars a year. Do we really need to pay for their cell phone? Do we really need to pay for their data plan? Do we really need to pay to give them a car?’” Finkelstein said. 

Conversely, Finkelstein said benefits in higher education appear to be increasing. Some perks include supplemental medical and life insurance, spousal travel and a full year of paid sabbatical after their presidency ends. 

Contact Paige Bennett at pbennet8@kent.edu.

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