Higher education leaders tackle financial issues this week with California State University trustees considering paying top brass more while University of California officials look at raising professional school fees.
At Cal State the nation’s largest four-year system with more than 400,000 students trustees meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Long Beach are set to vote on raising executive pay by nearly 12 percent, a proposal that has been widely criticized.
Administrators say the raise is necessary to help close a 46 percent pay gap between CSU executives and their counterparts elsewhere in the nation.
“We compete for university presidents and senior executives of the university system in a national marketplace,” said Board of Trustees Chairwoman Roberta Achtenberg. “Our executives are much sought after. Their level of excellence is widely acknowledged and we need to compensate them appropriately, at least in a way that’s competitive with our comparison institutions.”
But opponents say the raises are a bad idea at a time when student fees have been steadily increasing.
“It’s jumping out at us as another example of what are really chronically misplaced priorities,” said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association.
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who sits on the boards of both CSU and UC because of his office, wrote in a letter to Achtenberg and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed that the pay raises are “ill-timed and unwise” and “will most assuredly arouse the ire of students, faculty and the Legislature.”
Executive pay has been a thorny issue in public higher education, with the 10-campus University of California taking heavy criticism last year for quietly paying top officials millions in undisclosed perks.
On the agenda for that system’s governing board of regents, meeting at UC Davis Tuesday through Thursday, is a change in professional school fees that could have students at flagship campuses paying more than students elsewhere in the system.
Previously, fees had been raised on a year-by-year basis; a new system sets fees on a three-year basis to make it easier for students to plan a budget.
Several professional schools are asking for increases of 7 percent, which is in line with previous years, but some schools are asking for more. Officials at UC Berkeley’s law school want increases which would take fees to $41,000 by 2010-11, compared to $35,000 proposed by the law school at UC Davis. Berkeley’s business school would charge $41,000 by 2010-11 compared to $31,000 at UC San Diego.
School officials say they need the extra money to maintain quality considering cuts in state funding. They note the increases would be accompanied by increased financial aid and law schools would have loan forgiveness programs to encourage students to take up lower-paying public service jobs.
Opponents say the fees could deter low-income students and are out of step with UC’s mission as a public university.
Also on the regents’ agenda is approving a salary for legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who was reappointed dean of UC Irvine’s new law school this week after a series of events that saw him appointed and then jettisoned by UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake.
Chemerinsky has said Drake told him the offer had been withdrawn because some regents were concerned about the new dean’s politics, although Drake has said politics weren’t the problem.
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