The California State University system made headlines yesterday when it threatened to cut enrollment by 10,000 students next year if the state didn't front it more money. Chancellor Charles Reed said CSU had to make more cuts to a budget already $215,000 below what it needs, and that it currently serve 10,000 students for whom the state gives no money. But when it comes to top staffers, well, that's a different story. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Reed and his Board of Trustees recently approved salary increases of up to nine percent for nine vice-presidents, and hired 11 more at salaries as high as $225,000.

I'm thinking it's time for a career change to college administration, because these guys have it good. For example, the VP of student affairs at CSU Monterey came on board in February 2007 and less than 18 months later, he gets a $22,500 pay raise, from $117,500 to $140,000. The new vice-chancellor for university relations gets a salary of $240,000, plus another $40,500 to cover brokerage commissions, escrow fees and other costs for selling his home in Sacramento. Wait, is this a state school system or Wall Street these people are working for?
Ironically, even with its students and budget being cut simultaneously, CSU has no plans for a salary freeze. Now I'm sure running a public university system is tough work, but come on! Reed and his board are supposedly smart people -- couldn't they see earlier this year, when these salaries were approved, that trouble was brewing in California's economy and would affect their budget? Cutting students while raising salaries sounds so similar to Merrill Lynch cutting workers while giving executives golden parachutes -- except worse, because they're rejecting qualified kids looking for an education.

It's not just CSU administrators who are getting fatter paychecks. An annual survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education found that public university presidents' salaries are rising faster than private school presidents. The highest paid at a public school was E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University. This month, his package was raised to more than $1.3 million (compare that to the Ivy League's head honchos, most of whom get paid under $1 million). But have some pity for him -- he forfeited over half of his $2 million package when he left the private Vanderbilt University for OSU last year. But that's probably hard to do for students and taxpayers in faultering Ohio -- state budget reductions mean $6.1 million in cuts to OSU campuses. Great time for a pay raise, Mr. Gee. Have fun spending it while students nationwide try to scrape together more money for next year's tuition hike at a school that still has space available for them.

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