It's widely recognized that the insanely high pay of corporate CEOs is connected to poorly run companies in which executives use shareholder money as their personal ATM. Did you know that public universities are exactly the same? It's true!
Millions of young people are concerned about their burdensome student debts that could set them behind financially for their decades to come. Instead of attributing this toxic situation to cruel fate, take a moment to connect the dots between your huge student debt, the huge and rising cost of college education, and how much the leaders of universities are paid. This is a great way to put a human face on your own broke ass misery.
A new report today from the Institute for Policy Studies looks at the salaries of top administrators at public universities, and draws some very interesting conclusions that any graduates of these schools with high debt loads may not be surprised to learn. The most fundamental: high pay of university presidents goes hand in hand with lower pay for faculty members (more adjuncts and less full time faculty) and high student debt. Greed at the top, in other words, is connected to penury among the masses. From the report:
The student debt crisis is worse at state schools with the highest-paid presidents. The sharpest rise in student debt at the top 25 occurred when executive compensation soared the highest.
As students went deeper in debt, administrative spending outstripped scholarship spending by more than 2 to 1 at state schools with the highest-paid presidents.
As presidents' pay at the top 25 skyrocketed after 2008, part-time adjunct faculty increased more than twice as fast as the national average at all universities.
Here is a list of the public universities with the highest-paid presidents. Suffice it to say that it is not a list of the largest state universities, nor is it a list of the best state universities. It would be more accurate to call it a list of state universities that are extremely poor at managing the money that you, the students, pay it. Across America, adjunct faculty members cannot make a living wage, and student debt continues to skyrocket. Meanwhile—at the same schools most prone to these problems!—the pay of college presidents soars into the millions.
Just as activists and the government crack down on the pay of CEOs at public corporations, students and professors should turn their eyes to the pay of their own universities' presidents. (Not to mention the fucking football coaches.) Why do executives who sit at big desks in air conditioned offices reap huge amounts of money, while the vast majority of stakeholders in an institution scrape by on either next to nothing, or less than nothing? Would these university presidents like to argue that they are smarter than every professor at their institution? Would they like to argue that their fundraising prowess is so much better than that of a more reasonably priced replacement candidate that their high valuations more than pay for themselves? We would like to see them prove that, given the fact that this study is a strong indication that, in fact, they are little more than common rent-seekers, seeking to funnel as much revenue as possible off of the budgets that they supervise into their own swollen pockets.
The takeaway here is 1) Your misery and the luxurious life of your leaders are in fact connected, and 2) If you're gonna wave signs and protest and occupy the administration building and shit, here's a pretty good cause.
[Photo of Gordon Gee, who made $6 million(!) at Ohio State while turning it into the "most unequal public university" last year: AP]