The University of Colorado used money generated from last year's 9.3 percent tuition hike to reward many of its top administrators with raises, increasing Chancellor Phil DiStefano's salary by $49,000 to $389,000 and doling out tens of thousands of dollars in salary increases to other high-paid employees.

Now, with university administrators proposing an additional 15.7 percent tuition increase and a second round of raises, some CU regents say they were misled about what was presented to the board and to the public last year as a merit-based salary pool to reward faculty and staff with 3 percent raises.

"I can't support it this year," said Regent Sue Sharkey, R-Windsor. "Part of this is a fairness issue for me. We are asking families to pay more in tuition while tuition has been going up and incomes have not. Not only are people having pay freezes, in many cases salaries have decreased 10 to 20 percent. That's not something any of us want to see, but it's the reality of our economy."

In an interview, CU President Bruce Benson defended the raises, arguing the university's salaries are still far below those of peer universities. A chancellor's salary at a campus comparable to Boulder, for example, is $457,000, which is $68,000 more than what CU pays DiStefano.

"I've got to pay for good people," Benson said. "I want quality. You're not going to have quality if you don't have quality people working for you."

Last year's tuition increase netted the CU system roughly $36 million in extra revenue, with the regents agreeing last spring to set aside $11.8 million of that money for a compensation pool to reward top faculty, staff and administrators.

Minutes from the April meeting when the regents approved the salary fund show that it was described to the board as a "3 percent pool." CU officials on Friday explained that the 3 percent figure refers to the portion of the university's total compensation budget.

An e-mail that DiStefano sent to Boulder campus faculty and staff in October said that classified staff who were meeting or exceeding expectations would earn a one-time, 3 percent raise and that eligible faculty and professional exempt staff have received salary increases from an "overall 3 percent merit pool," which was allocated based on individual performance. Some of CU's top performers also earned more, for reasons that include extra duties or retention.

Earlier this month, CU officials presented an initial tuition proposal for the 2012-13 school year that includes a 15.7 percent increase for in-state students, which would translate to an extra $1,203 for students in the College of Arts and Sciences -- raising annual tuition to $8,875 next year.

Regents likely will vote on next year's tuition rates in March, and they'll be asked to once again approve a salary pool, this time for about $10.3 million to fund a second round of raises.

The Board of Regents viewed, in a private meeting, a report that detailed how last year's compensation pool was distributed. The Camera obtained the salary report under the Colorado Open Records Act.

The report shows that nine administrators were given merit raises exceeding $10,000. Separately, some other top administrators received promotions netting them salary increases, such as Jill Pollock, chief human resources officer, who received a $30,000 raise, increasing her salary to $240,000.