COLUMBIA — A state panel has decided the new president of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg could be paid up to $326,000 a year.

The South Carolina Agency Head Salary Commission on Tuesday approved a salary of $170,000 for Thomas Elzey, who is becoming president of the school June 15.

Elzey also will be paid $131,000 annually by a South Carolina State foundation.

Elzey, 59, has been finance and operations executive at The Citadel, where he earned $257,000 annually in state and private money. He also receives $50,000 annually in deferred compensation.

The salary commission also recommended a housing allowance of $25,000 a year. That must be approved by the Budget and Control Board.

Former South Carolina State president George Cooper earned about $250,000 annually.

Interim president Cynthia Warrick is making $156,000, said board chairman Walter Tobin.

The school had requested a state salary of $198,000 for Elzey, which would have made him the fourth highest paid public college president in the state, behind only the leaders of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, the University of South Carolina in Columbia and Clemson University.

The salary commission’s recommendation for Elzey is $30 more than new Winthrop University president Jayne Comstock.

“He has a presence,” Tobin said. “He is the kind of gentleman who can go into a board room and convince people that SC State University is a place to invest in.”

South Carolina’s only public historically black school has struggled with a $6 million deficit, as well as a declining enrollment and disputes among board members.