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May 19, 2014 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds (SLNYT) 'At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012...The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities.' Report here.
posted by MisantropicPainforest (24 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's fairly horrifying that any university president, much less a public university president, is making $6 million a year.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:57 AM on May 19 [16 favorites]


As LGM pointed out, this is what you get when you run a university like a business.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:59 AM on May 19 [15 favorites]


On the Bologna model, students formed mutual aid societies to educate themselves by hiring professors. Students had authority to run the institution on the grounds that they were paying for it.

On the Oxford model, universities were run by the professors on the grounds that they knew what they were talking about.

The managerial model is without justification.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:09 AM on May 19 [35 favorites]


this is what you get when you run a university like a business

Well, keep in mind that people like Gordon Gee were the presidents of public institutions, not private, and they're governed by a board of regents here in Ohio. Theoretically that board of regents sets the compensation.

So no, Noxaeternum, I wouldn't agree with your assessment that this is what you get when you run a university like a business. This is more like a large publicly traded corporation with gobs of cash coming in and a board of directors who has been convinced that the chief executive is worth the cash being asked.

Secret tip: not all businesses (as in...98% of all businesses) reward their top executives in this kind of ludicrous manner. When you have stupid money to spend, large organizations have a tendency to spend stupid money.

Schools are not exempt from this level of stupidity.
posted by tgrundke at 10:11 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


During the same period, it said, the university hired 670 new administrators, 498 contingent and part-time faculty — and 45 permanent faculty members.
Now, they don't list how many folks left jobs. But, what roles are those 670 people doing ? I know the conservative riff is "gender and diversity specialist", but really, 670 administrators ?
posted by k5.user at 10:12 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


When you have stupid money to spend, large organizations have a tendency to spend stupid money

The interesting thing is that only specific places have taken the route of overpaying the president (and the associated path of wildly overrelying on adjuncts and driving up student debt). It's a very specific model adopted by certain institutions, clearly to the detriment of everyone who isn't a top administrator.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:25 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


" the university hired 670 new administrators, 498 contingent and part-time faculty — and 45 permanent faculty members"

Gotta create jobs for all those middle class kids who don't want to become faculty. Like the NHS in the UK.
posted by marienbad at 10:27 AM on May 19


But, what roles are those 670 people doing ?
It's a little misleading to talk about these folks as administrators, because they're mostly in student services. Most schools are hiring more people to work in housing, financial aid, academic advising, and other non-faculty roles that work directly with students. Most of this is geared towards retention, because there's research that shows that students are more likely to graduate if they form significant relationships with university faculty or staff, and full-time, permanent staff is a lot cheaper to hire than faculty.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:29 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


Now, they don't list how many folks left jobs. But, what roles are those 670 people doing ? I know the conservative riff is "gender and diversity specialist", but really, 670 administrators ?

Well, it seems reasonable that you'd be hiring more "administrators" than faculty (although that ratio is pretty terrible) because they usually lump in secretaries, grants administration, accountants, the person who manages memberships at the gym, registrars and the person who manages visits from accrediting bodies (which is really necessary at, say, a medical school) with "administrators" - even though people hear "administrator" and they think "person who makes $200,000 a year for some light meeting attendance and report generation". Under this rubric, I'm usually an "administrator", and I'm actually a secretary with some additional high-skill financial responsibilities. But then, most "administrators" of this kind are making in the $25,000 - $40,000 range. We do better than adjuncts - which is a national disgrace - but we're not really pulling in ridiculous salaries or doing useless things.

Basically, while an actual academic department is going to have more faculty than "administrators", the university as a whole does a lot of things that aren't academic per se, like admissions, grants compliance, running the gym, assigning people to dorms, etc - and that's even if you leave out all the more controversial new stuff like donor cultivation and PR.

A big problem is that we have lost so much funding from the state that the university is more and more dependent on corporate, foundation and freelance-rich-person dollars. Those dollars cost a lot more because of the great variety of compliance measures involved and because of the expense of cultivating those relationships. Those dollars are also tied dollars - like, you can get $10 million for a new building because that's exciting and dramatic and some rich person can put his name on it, but you can't get the $50,000 it would cost to repair and repaint the covered walkway that half the campus uses every day and which is starting to look like it belongs in Thunderdome.

Having to go begging to corporations and foundations to fund things is a huge problem - and I suspect that it creates a culture of high-paid administrators. First, because the school as a whole becomes more and more part of a rich-people circuit - the culture changes, the important people are no longer faculty but wealthy outsiders. Second, because of the idea that it's prestigious for a school to pay its top people a lot - that's a corporate/PR idea, not in line with the old faculty-governance model. Third, because you need administrators who can maintain those corporate/donor relationships - you need people who are at home among the wealthy, who have an aura of personal wealth, and who are willing to work very, very hard cultivating those relationships. Some of these very highly-paid administrators are just feeding at the trough, but I've known one or two highly paid senior people who - well, no one earns $6 million a year - but who had to work really hard at a kind of affective labor that many mefites would find really, really unpleasant and exhausting. I think that overpaying administrators is a bad idea, but I also think that if we want old-school faculty-governance-style administrators, we need to restore better and more equitable sources of funding for the university as a whole.
posted by Frowner at 10:30 AM on May 19 [43 favorites]


The interesting thing is that only specific places have taken the route of overpaying the president

This tendency usually occurs in environments where there is a lot of cash coming in the door. Ask most small and family owned businesses and in many cases these people aren't making crazy money like this.

Higher Ed, like the housing industry, has gone a great job of convincing everyone in the food chain that their services are essential. Every parent tells their kid to go to college, every politician tells its constituents that they need to support higher end, every banker wants to give loans for higher ed, and every school wants to one-up the next.

When you've convinced everyone that they need/deserve/should own a home (need/deserve/should go to college), the money will follow. Not necessarily the wise money, but money nonetheless.
posted by tgrundke at 10:31 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]


a board of directors who has been convinced that the chief executive is worth the cash being asked.

Let's take a quick look at the Ohio Board of Regents.

"Vinod K. Gupta has served as president and CEO of two multi-million dollar manufacturing companies"

"Timothy M. Burke is the president of Manley Burke LPA"

"Patricia A. Ackerman is president and CEO of CHALKDUST Inc"

"Thomas Humphries has been the president and CEO of the Regional Chamber since April 1997"

"Kurt Kaufman is an attorney who has owned and managed Kaufman Law Office in Lima for the past 16 years"

"Elizabeth P. Kessler is ... Partner-in-Charge of the Columbus office [of] [the third largest law firm in the world,] Jones Day"

Of the 8 members of board of regents, 6 have a strong personal interest in CEOs and heads of companies being extremely well compensated. It's not just that they think the chief executive is worth the cash. It's a "scratch your back and you'll scratch mine" network of aligned interests. Gordon Gee himself, for example, is on the board of directors of L Brands, the $10 billion company that owns Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, and a host of other companies.

For a great visualization of this phenomenon (linked on MeFi previously) check out They Rule.
posted by jedicus at 10:36 AM on May 19 [20 favorites]


Having to go begging to corporations and foundations to fund things is a huge problem - and I suspect that it creates a culture of high-paid administrators.

Yeeeep, I got to witness from the VIP seats not one but two schools have complete administrative meltdowns over money and the results where clear, the highly paid board members looked out for each other and moved onto other jobs and left the actual school part a smoking ruin. Smash and grab capitalism, no one will ever be held accountable.
posted by The Whelk at 10:39 AM on May 19 [6 favorites]


How many of those highly paid University Presidents and Chancellors have Head Football Coaches and Athletic Directors that make either equivalent or more money?

Looking at the chief executives without looking at Athletic Department salaries is a bad move. Let's be honest how many CEOs do you know would want one or more of their subordinates making more than them?

I'm not saying that executive pay at top institutions isn't ridiculous but let's be honest there are a ton of factors at work in this and Alumni demanding competitive athletics before they give money to their Alma Mater is a major contributing factor.
posted by vuron at 11:07 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


A comment rightfully points out that it is the Board of the state that sets (controls) salaries for presidents at state university. However, it is always wealthy people, corporate execs etc., that get on these boards. They take care of their own because "that is how things are done."

With universities now taking in many more out of state students--years ago it was capped at ten percent--at much higher tuition (the reason for taking them in), and thus limiting what in-state family can have for their own kids (those kids will often go out of state at higher fees), and the huge increase in grad students and adjuncts (this too used to be capped and regulated by r egional accrediting groups), the system thus puts students in debt, puts the screws to the poor students trying for college, and further the gap between Haves and Have Nots.

All the concern, babble, outcry about rising tuition is just that: empty noise. The cause of rising tuition is inflated numbers of administrators and their salaries...at the other end , schools are making money by cutting back on full time teachers, use larger class sizes, online courses,offering programs overseas where cost is often less but charging what would be paid at home college.
posted by Postroad at 11:23 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


This is an interesting report, but there are also some initial reactions suggesting that it has a lot of flaws. Here are two. The second link is to an article by the University of Minnesota that points out a number of problems with the data used in the report (at least specifically with regards to their school).
posted by bove at 11:32 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


not all businesses

A new square for the Not All Bingo card!
posted by RogerB at 11:50 AM on May 19 [8 favorites]


I keep telling my wife she should get into upper management at the local college, particularly the alumni foundation, because that's where the money is.

Plus, the work, no offense intended to people in academic upper management, seems a lot less, shall we say, stressful than work in a private corporation.
posted by madajb at 1:03 PM on May 19


My comment from a December 2012 post seems apropos here.
posted by haiku warrior at 1:53 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders, Study Finds

So the highest paid grifters executives are those who have achieved the largest extraction of wealth from their marks target customer base? The free market does work!
posted by Jakey at 2:56 PM on May 19


RogerB: "not all businesses

A new square for the Not All Bingo card!
"

C'mon, man, not on ALL bingo cards!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:12 PM on May 19 [5 favorites]


It's not just big institutions with lots of money. The President of the small liberal-arts school I attended, with a total of 1600 students, makes nearly $1,000,000/year. The prior president made about a fifth of that.
posted by lucasks at 4:42 PM on May 19


Frowner nails it: the drastic reduction of state appropriations over the past decade+ has forced public universities to overhaul their entire structure. These institutions can no longer rely on government funds; they’ve had to turn to alternative revenue sources [wealthy donors/corporations].

Presidents, serving as the figureheads of universities have to court these donors, and must do so in a way that is more characteristic of a politician or a CEO than, say, a devoted professor emeritus who has worked his way through the ranks. The trend for presidents to have corporate backgrounds and corporate ties is widespread, from the most elite universities to the humble community colleges. Every institution is looking for someone who can help them bring in more revenue.
posted by chara at 5:09 PM on May 19 [8 favorites]


It is not just the top schools with outrageous upper Admin salaries. It is more helpful to breakdown admin from the C-level folks from the support staff. This is easily done in states like Minnesota which has unions and very stratified pay levels. None the less, the push in American society that education is no longer a common good that should be funded has created a creature whose span of damage is broad.
posted by jadepearl at 6:18 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


It's fairly horrifying that any university president, much less a public university president, is making $6 million a year.

It's awkwardly worded in the article, but the Ohio State prez made $6M over a four year period, not every year. (7th para down)

Not that $1.5M a year is great either.
posted by donajo at 6:50 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]


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