Jul 22, 2019

CSU executives’ pay rises, so does student fees

The California State University Board of Trustees voted to give CSU executives a pay raise at their meeting last week in Long Beach.

This decision comes as student fees are set to increase by another 10 percent approximately, a topic that was also discussed at the meeting.

The CSU Board of Trustees voted 15-2 Wednesday to raise executives’ salaries by an average of 12 percent.

Fresno State President John D. Welty’s salary went up by13.3 percent, from $263,989 to $299,000. This figure is marginally higher than that of most other CSU executives, but not the highest.

Over the last 10 years, salary increases for CSU executives have ranged from 66 percent to 100 percent, depending on the campus. Fresno State’s president’s salary was $157,716 in 1997, or a 90 percent difference from this year’s figure.

Brian Ferguson, communications specialist for the California Faculty Association (CFA), said the pay increase for executives ranged from 9 percent to 18 percent.

“This is on top of the 37 percent raise they got in 2005,” Ferguson said.

Some CSU executives claim that large salary lags exist in executives’ salaries compared to other, similar college systems—upwards of 46 percent, according to the Chancellor’s office.

But Ferguson was skeptical.

“The CPEC [California Postsecondary Education Commission] picks a random sampling of colleges around the nation supposedly comparable to CSU,” Ferguson said. “But private colleges are also included in that.”

Ferguson said executives at many private institutions may make as much as $350,000 to $400,000 a year.

“Bottom line is, most of our executives make more money than the president of the United States,” Ferguson said.

President George W. Bush earns $400,000 per year, and some college executives’ salaries are indeed approaching that level.

Trustee and Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and others urged the Board of Trustees to kill the salary increase motion at least until after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed two pieces of CSU reform legislation on his desk.

One bill would require a public forum before executive decisions can be made, so as to prevent backroom deals that negatively impact the classroom. The other would tie salary increases the work performed by the CSU executives.

Ferguson called the pay raises “bad business,” as it comes on the backdrop of increased student fees and overcrowded classrooms.

Student fees have shot up by 94 percent since the Higher Education Compact was enacted in 2004, Ferguson said.

He explained that the compact was a deal put together between the governor and the CSU and UC systems in response to a recession and a large state budget shortfall at the time. The goal is to maintain stability in funding for the CSU system.

“But they made a deal with the devil,” Ferguson said of the CSU executives.

He explained that the student fee increases are now set in stone for each year through the life of the compact.

The new fees won’t go toward the classroom, infrastructure or staff salaries, Ferguson said.

Instead, they will partially go toward paying off annual CSU budget shortfalls, said Esmeralda Santos, a Fresno director of CSU legislative affairs.

“Part of it [the new fees] will compensate for shortfalls in the CSU budget,” Santos said.

Santos said that due to the compact agreement, student fees are set to increase from 8 percent to 10 percent every year, through at least the remainder of the decade.

The amount of the student fees increase won’t be finalized until March.

In the meantime, Santos said Associated Student governments are planning to lobby the legislature to buy back at least some of the 10 percent increase, perhaps bargaining the raise down to 5 percent or less.

Russell Statham, Associated Students, Incorporated Vice President of Finance, said the California State Student Association (CSSA), of which he is a board member, is anticipating a 10 percent increase in fees.

Statham and others will lobby the legislature for a buy-out, although he wasn’t banking on much success.

“The Legislature bought out the fees two years ago,” Statham said. “But it [2006] was also an election year.”

Regarding the CSU executives’ salaries, Statham, who serves as chair of university affairs for CSSA, said the organization took an official position opposing the increases at their meeting in San Diego last week.

But Fresno State was just one of two universities represented that voted “no” on opposing the salary increases.

Statham, who holds one of those votes, explained that since pay for top CSU executives is lagging at an average of 46 percent behind executives from comparable universities, he believed it was important to “support equitable pay, just as we’ve supported increases for staff in the past.”

Statham said the CSU executives play a pivotal role in impacting college life for students, and thus it was important to retain them through just compensation.

He also called for perspective, arguing that the approximately $850,000 total increase for executives was very small compared to the overall CSU budget, which increased 7 percent to $4.3 billion this year.

Just the same, opponents denounced the raises, linking the issue to more financial strain on students through higher fees, and neglect of the classroom.

Trustee Ricardo Icaza, who provided of the two “no” votes, denounced the executive pay raise.

“In an era when we continue to raise student fees and classrooms are becoming more and more overcrowded, it is absurd to consider a pay increase right now,” Icaza said.

“Students are working multiple jobs trying to pay for their education.”

CSU executives’ salary comparison

The following list shows the new salaries for several CSU presidents, and the percentage of the increase from last year.

• CSU Bakersfield
President Horace Mitchell: $285,000. Increase of 10%.

• CSU Fresno
President John D. Welty: $299,000. Increase of 13.3%.

• CSU Pomona
President J. Michael Ortiz: $292,000. Increase of 18.1%.

• CSU San Luis Obispo
President Warren J. Baker: $328,209. Increase of 10%.

• CSU Stanislaus
President Hamid Shirvani: $270,000. Increase of 9.5%.

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