The Montana Board of Regents is offering Clay Christian a salary of $283,300 a year to be the next commissioner of higher education, the same pay as earned by the two university presidents in Bozeman and Missoula.

The salary alone would make Christian one of the highest paid state employees, if the regents formally vote to appoint him to the job when they meet in Helena on Thursday and Friday.

The commissioner's office announced Tuesday that Christian is also being offered a two-year contract, a car allowance, and eligibility for deferred compensation at age 65, if he stays on the job at least five years. The deferred compensation -- $35,000 a year for three years, followed by $50,000 a year for seven years - is somewhat less than the two presidents' deferred compensation, but is also similarly financed by a life insurance policy.

Christian, 46, who owns title companies in Missoula and around the state, was the regents' chairman until last month, when the board made the surprise announcement that it had halted a national search and chosen Christian, because of his leadership and business experience.

For the full story, read tomorrow's Chronicle or visit