Are generous raises for Georgia college presidents defensible or necessary?

The Board of Regents has approved raises for most of the college and university presidents within the University System of Georgia.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby defended the increases, which push the total compensation for two presidents to more than a million dollars. Huckaby said the raises were necessary to attract and retain college leaders in a competitive marketplace.

Public college presidents in Georgia have long complained they are losing top faculty to better endowed private colleges, especially in science, math and engineering. It’s interesting presidents now are the ones getting the big pay hikes.

Barrie Maguire NewsArt

Barrie Maguire NewsArt

As the AJC reported:

The increases come a month after the Regents increased tuition for the upcoming school year between 2.5 percent and 9 percent for students at all 30 of the system’s campuses.

Here are the top 10 highest compensated USG presidents for the upcoming fiscal year.

  1. Bud Peterson, Georgia Tech, $1.09 million

  2. Mark Becker, Georgia State, $1.07 million

  3. Jere Morehead, UGA, $811,353

  4. Brooks Keel, Georgia Southern, $397,304

  5. Dan Papp, Kennesaw State, $352,991

  6. Kyle Marrero, University of West Georgia, $316,369

  7. Chris Markwood, Columbus State, $312,800

  8. Arthur Dunning, Albany State, $303,156

  9. Christopher Blake, Middle Georgia State, $294,880

  10. Steve Dorman, Georgia College and State, $294,00

Gary Kline, a professor of political science at Georgia Southwestern State University, shared a letter he wrote to the Board of Regents, the chancellor  and the campus presidents.

By Gary Kline

This is certainly not the first time I have seen the Board of Regents and Chancellor make a controversial announcement just days after the end of the spring term, as USG faculty and committees disperse for the summer. The timing is so blatantly and politically strategic, though, that it is hard for faculty and staff to miss your intent.

Clearly, you hope that by the time fall term rolls around the anger your decision has generated will have dissipated. But the world has changed, and social media renders this disingenuous strategy less effective today.

A few days ago we heard University System presidents can expect generous salary increases in the upcoming year. These are people who are already well-compensated, receiving either hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more than a million each.

According to reports, one will get a $500,000 increase and another $320,000 – on top of their current salaries. These presidents also enjoy living allowances – for homes, cars, and entertainment.

Unfortunately, the public sees such news and thinks that all of us in higher education are well-paid, which is far from the truth. At my institution, Georgia Southwestern State University, faculty-staff salaries have scarcely budged in the past 10 years.

Today, my monthly take-home pay is within a few dollars of what it was in 2005. While presidents are getting many thousands of dollars more this year, our dean has been given $21,000 to distribute among approximately 50 people in Arts and Sciences. That works out to an average of $420 per person this year, or about $25 per month in actual take-home pay.

I am a full professor with 25 years of service to GSW and to the state of Georgia, and my total annual remuneration is only about 14 percent of what one of these presidents will receive as his salary increase this year!

My annual pay is a much, much smaller fraction of his total salary package. I can’t help but wonder how far these presidential salary increases would go to remedy some the inequities we find below the presidents.

Apparently, the Board of Regents and the Chancellor have no awareness of the deleterious effects that years of salary stagnation have had on the morale of USG faculty and staff. Apparently, too, you have no sense of fundamental fairness.

Dedicated, hard-working people in the USG with specialized skills and advanced degrees are struggling to pay mortgages and doctor bills. These are the people engaged in the actual mission of the universities and colleges – that of educating our students. However, you act as if we are here merely to serve your highly paid administrators.

Administrators are supposed to be facilitating the work of the teachers, helping us to create an environment conducive to learning and student success. Instead, your decisions about funding priorities suggest that you think we are just employees working for you rather than for the citizens and students of our state. The “tail is wagging the dog.”

To be blunt: those of us in the trenches of higher education find that your strategically timed announcement manifests an appalling callousness and a shocking affront to both the faculty-staff of the USG and to the citizens of Georgia who depend on you to make wise decisions about how to allocate state educational funds.

Moreover, you have just announced tuition increases of between 2.5 and 9 percent for Georgia’s students, depending on the institution. Leaving aside my role as an educator, as a citizen and taxpayer of the state I feel betrayed by your decision.

It seems like an act of financial misconduct to raise tuition and then turn around and give scarce funds to the best paid people in the system rather than using it in ways that might enhance teacher morale and quality of instruction or student access to higher education. Did not the governor just commit to expand access to Georgia students? Does your decision in any way promote that goal?

Presidents of the USG institutions should reject their salary increases. There, I’ve said it.  Most of you presidents know how bad things have become for faculty-staff on your campuses over the past decade, being pushed constantly to work harder as we also tightened our financial belts and saw our purchasing power drop dramatically. The stark gap that has developed between highly compensated administrators and rank and file teachers is unhealthy and unfair.

Georgia will suffer over the long run for such misguided policies. We cannot hope to attract or hold on to the best faculty in such a hostile and inequitable climate, and higher education in the state will be (already has been) eroded.

I would therefore suggest to members of the Board of Regents and the Chancellor that you search your hearts and consciences; re-think your priorities. What policies would truly foster a climate favorable to faculty-staff morale and student access and learning in the USG? Large salary increases for the presidents? Or some long overdue rewards for faculty-staff who have endured years of hard work with only pats on their backs to compensate them?

Do the right thing – for the state, for the students, and for all of the USG personnel.

Reader Comments 0

60 comments
DavidL3940
DavidL3940

These Million $$$ salaries is way too high!!! Who controls Board of Regents? They use public funds like it grows on trees.......I guess the trees are the students tuition!!! Just increase it. Just like the rest of taxes!!!

anothercomment
anothercomment

My aunt for many years was a full professor of Biology and the Department of Biology Chair at a small catholic College ( now a University ) in NE PA. She is and was a Sister of Mercy. She for over 50 years was best friends with another nun, who became the College Professor. They shared along with another nun the President's house on Campus. The President's house was a modest ranch house of maybe 1950's vintage 1200- 1600 sq ft. 3 bedroom maybe 2 baths tops. Bright yellow, it sat right in the middle of campus. The three nuns would share an American made car a "demo" that a local dealer would donate to them to use for a year ( as his charitable deduction for in-kind contribution. It was always a 4 door mid- size boxy car of American make, that would make the occasional trip to visit my grandmother). A couple of years ago, one of my Aunt's the younger sister of My Aunt Mary ( her real name not nun name) only was allowed to keep $140 per month of her Professor salary the rest was donated back to the order and the college they ran. I asked my Aunt what about Sister Carolyn the University President! Did she get to keep more. My Aunt, said no, she also only got to keep $140 per month. Which might be why this private colleges tuition is at the low range of a Private University.

First, I can not imagine male University Presidents living in a modest ranch house that was always open to students in the middle of campus. Nor can I imagine them soliciting an in -kind mid- size car directly from a car dealer for their car. While I don't expect them to work on a Nuns salary, after all Nuns and Priests take a Vow of Poverty to serve the Lord, earning $1 million dollars when our children are stuck with adjuncts who aren't even paid $3,000 per 3 credit course with no benefits is garish.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

These increases are neither defensible nor necessary when tuition keep skyrocketing. It's also pretty indefensible when the faculty and staff haven't received raises in six years, and have been consistently been asked to do more with less.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Late May is when the new University contracts come out, for the faculty as well as the administrators.  I'm retired, but I can imagine the anger and bitterness being expressed as faculty also get news of these presidential raises. For the first time since 2008, USG faculty were to get raises...then it turned out to be only 2% raises....then it turned out to be 2% raises based on "merit," which usually translates to grants and publications. Not many would get them, in other words.


Since there haven't been any raises to give and salaries have stayed flat for 7 years, some schools (such my former one) have compensated by hiring new faculty at very high incoming salaries. This of course creates "salary compression," whereby longtime faculty get a pittance by comparison to the newcomers.


These well-publicized presidential salaries are going to decimate faculty morale even further.

coj
coj

Just like the for-profit corporations, our educational institutions are contributing to the widening gap between the upper crust and the rest of the pie. It's all about the entitled getting what they want and not want they deserve. 

BLW56
BLW56

GT makes sense given how much the University returns to the local economy but the GSU salary is indefensible. Becker has done nothing significant in his tenure at GSU, a commuter college with no real research agenda.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@BLW56 

This is a completely outdated view of Georgia State that's at least 20 years old; and if true, the school would not have been ranked by the Regents as a "research university," one of four in the System. And it's had dorms since the 1996 Olympics.  It sure isn't a "commuter college."


I myself think that Becker's $500,000+ raise this year is to keep him at the helm when the Chancellor has just merged his research university, that has big-time research aspirations, with Georgia Perimeter College, a large 2-year community college with different aspirations and quite a different academic identity. I think that Becker will earn it... then probably fly away in about 2-3 years to some more prestigious school.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Bryan Williams @OriginalProf @BLW56 

Compared to UGA, GT, and GRU (really the Medical College of Ga.), what you say about Georgia State's extramural research funding may be true---up to 2008, when Becker came to GSU. In the 7 years since, he and his administration have made mighty efforts to change that, and to an extent I think they have.  At least they've certainly changed the emphasis for the faculty, and more million-$ grants have come their way.


I would say that Becker is ambitious to go higher. Too bad there isn't some trickle-down to the faculty from his raise, for they're the ones who will be doing the heavy lifting to get more research funding for the University.

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf @Bryan Williams @BLW56 Faculty have gotten the shaft at GSU and GPC.  At GPC the length and rigidity of that staff is extreme.  Nothing I've heard so far regarding consolidation suggests that the shaft is going to become more "user friendly."  People need to understand that the faculty at GPC are essentially serfs.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf @Bryan Williams @BLW56 

I think it's worse for GPC faculty, from the scuttlebutt I've heard. 

GSU faculty are seeing the P/T standards rise very swiftly, with new University P/T guidelines a few years ago and new post-tenure review guidelines this year. (Maybe tenured faculty who are unproductive can't be fired, but they can be given bigger, beginning classes and more of them.) New faculty hires are very highly qualified and highly paid, and present faculty will be measured against them. 

But GSU faculty have been expected to be "research faculty"; and so long as they were, their course-loads were OK--2-3 classes. 3-3 loads at most if they didn't publish. (For outsiders, that means 2 courses taught one term, and 3 the other.)


But GPC faculty, with their 4-4 teaching loads a year, haven't been expected to be research scholars. And their service obligations are heavy, I have heard. (I have several doctoral advisees who got post-doctoral jobs there.)  I fear all of these "serf" activities will intensify as the merging is implemented.


I do hope that Maureen will devote some future blogs to the situation of the GPC faculty due to this merger.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf @BLW56 

Since Becker will be president of GPC after the merger, I wonder if he is absorbing your present president's salary in some way?  There goes the argument about saving the expense of 2 presidents' salaries by merging!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Bryan Williams @OriginalProf @BLW56 

This may be true, but Becker and Company are doing their very best to pressure GSU faculty in increasing the grant funding. They have an incentive beyond reputation, for the federal government also gives the grantee's institution funds for indirect costs of the grant. This does not bode well for GPC faculty who will be joining them shortly.

And redweather, would you care to specify more about just how GPC faculty are "getting the shaft" and are "essentially serfs"? I mean, more than they were before the merger?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf @Bryan Williams @BLW56 

I should think that the  two big issues to be settled for GPC faculty are their expected annual course-load, and the standards for promotion and tenure. I've read your college P/T guidelines and they are very different from the new ones that GSU just approved a few years ago, just as your expected present course-load is evidently much higher.

I note that GSU now has a website to track consolidation progress. Go to the GSU website and then click "Consolidation." There's a Consolidation Committee with members from both schools that's just begun work, I've heard. You might want to keep track via the website.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf @Bryan Williams @BLW56 

Very sorry to hear it. But I gather that so far the committees are just working like hell to get recommendations out that then will be considered by the joint committee of GSU and GPC folks. Nothing final yet. 


Both President Becker and Provost Palm, who head it all, are top-down administrators.  But both are trained in the sciences, so do consider things logically. If they try to impose GSU P/T standards then how can they continue the GPC course load? No time for research or grant-getting! 


My profound commiserations....

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf @BLW56 Less than 20% of GSU's undergraduates live on campus, so I think it's fair to call it a commuter school.  The decision to give Becker that kind of raise is outrageous, but this is happening in every state in the country so it's not as if the BOR went out on a limb.  My GPC faculty colleagues and I finally got a 2% raise last year for the first time in ten years.

Bryan Williams
Bryan Williams

@OriginalProf @BLW56 the level of GSU's extramural funding is indefensibly low when compared to other institutions its size. All the merger did was create the state's largest community college. The faculty from GPC aren't researchers and will not generate revenue. GSU is ranked poorly in virtually every research category imaginable. Becker is stuck at GSU. Trust me when I tell you no one wants him. That;s why he is trying to create his own fiefdom here. It's the end of the road.  

Bryan Williams
Bryan Williams

@OriginalProf @Bryan Williams @BLW56 GSU has improved but that's like saying McDonalds is becoming a health food restaurant. Their funding numbers do not come ANYWHERE near comparable institutions like University of Cincinnati. 

straker
straker

The phrase "follow the money" comes to mind.

hssped
hssped

It's the same in public schools with the super and his henchmen making top dollar...then the directors and coordinators....meanwhile I am still working multiple p/t jobs (going on 7 years now) just to make ends meet.  We got a 1% raise in January but it doesn't even by a tank of gas, so I keep on with the p/t jobs.   It seems like those working directly with the students (public school or college) would be compensated better and those that have NO contact with students would be compensated a little less. 


In Fayette they just "re-did" the county office positions.  The eliminated some positions and created multiple new positions.  And then cherry-picked who they wanted in each position.  Some are most happy as their salary will be almost doubling.  Others are most agitated as the openings weren't posted.....that kind of sucks. 


I guess that is just the way it is.  Those on the top steer this ship in the direction of  "How can I justify giving myself  (and my spouse and/or friends) an even bigger salary?"   And everyone else can take it or leave it.    

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

With the CEOs of the top 200 corporations earning an average of $20 million, this is of course a pittance.  No question this whole corralling of the monopoly money will bring riots and violence unless we start paying attention.  As Bernie Sanders has said - "these people are happy to take advantage of the beautiful system we have created in the United States but are unwilling to meet their civic responsibilities."  University President are certainly more cognizant of this and more responsible than the narrow minded greed of the corporate world.  Time to pay attention to who you vote for and what they will accomplish once elected.

Tinkerella
Tinkerella

I am appalled at the board for their crassness with this steamer.  Try to explain that to the students whose tuition is getting so high that they are now faced with whether or not its even feasible to stay in college.  Unbelievable.  Professor Kline is dead on.  The salary alone is staggering not to mention all of the perks.  C'mon, folks.....this is just blatant misappropriation of funds.  When will it stop?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Seems like I remember the Pres of the MCOG used to be the second highest.  Now I don't see that at all in the top 10.  What does the Pres of "Regent's University" get?


And to scrappy-22 below, Betty___ used to be the President of Kennesaw. Can't remember what she made. There used to be a woman Pres at a South Georgia college also, but I don't think she is there anymore.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Wascatlady 

The AJC this morning reported that the former President of Ga. Regents U, who resigned last January, will leave this July 1 on a year of educational leave at full salary of $675,379 plus a $470,000 payment for "exemplary service." There's a search on for his replacement.  I've always thought that it was not a coincidence that he resigned shortly after the Chancellor announced the merger of GRU, a nationally ranked premier medical college, with Augusta State, a regional liberal arts college.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Wascatlady 

Correction:  Make that a merger of the Medical College of Georgia with Augusta State. They became GRU.

scrappy-22
scrappy-22

Anyone else notice the list of the top ten is all men?  If we had the full list, and not just the top ten, would their be any women on it?  

popacorn
popacorn

@scrappy-22 So are the top ten composers in history, chefs, athletes, writers, painters and on and on. Occasionally, a woman will crack the top ten. Pesky Genetics. 

Astropig
Astropig

I agree with Professor Kline here. Look at the drop off  in pay from the top 3 to number 4. The pay differential tells me that the top three are members of some informal club and the others have yet to get there.


There is a really, really simple way to voice your displeasure- tell the fundraisers that will call your kiddos after graduation and you (if you're also an alumni) that you won't be mailing a check to an institution that can afford an overpaid president.

Kvinnan2
Kvinnan2

@Astropig 

Sound advice, of course. But I think what readers are intended to absorb from this is the Occupy Wall Street message that the system is "unfairly rigged."

Or are you one of those still using Mother Jones as bird cage liner?

Astropig
Astropig

@Kvinnan2 @Astropig


My birds deserve better.


But seriously, I agree with your point. The whole jihad here against corporate life and structure and pay and such is being delivered by...a well connected,multifaceted corporation.It's as if a McDonalds cashier were warning us about the dangers of too much fat and salt in their food while asking you if you'd like to supersize your order.


The good thing is that we have real choice in higher education.Parents or students that don't agree with wildly over paid presidents can vote with their dollar just like we can avoid McDonalds and eat at...Whole Foods or some other place.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Kvinnan2 @Astropig



If students had absolutely no choice at all in where they could attend,then yes, I would feel it was unfair. But they do. All of the info they need to make an informed decision is at their fingertips (like the article to your left).


But college presidents are humans. If you offer them a million and perks, they're gonna take it. They'd be crazy not to.The real question is whether you want your kid to borrow the equivalent of a mortgage for 10-15 years to make sure they have tennis courts (with lights) at their mansion. Some people are fine with that. The "brand name" at UGA or Tech makes it worth it to them.


As for your earlier suggestion that the faculty speak up and whatever, why should the prez listen to them? They know that adjuncts will work for "Ross Dress For Less" wages and most "soft" majors profs are unemployable in the private sector,so where are they going to go? They're already making more than they could make elsewhere.Speaking up is all they can do. (Like Professor Kline here, who states his case well). And this is not meant to be harsh or a put down,but just the way it looks,from here on the outside.


Just like other fields of endeavor, the real money, dear friend, is in management. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Astropig 

The top 3 here are presidents of research universities, so of course they're going to get a lot more than the rest.  USG schools have four rankings, and the highest ranked (research universities) get more funding, more buildings, and of course higher presidential salaries.  Research universities are those with doctoral programs.


C'mon, Astropig--you're always the hard-bitten realist. The Chancellor and Regents are doing this because they can. (Of course it makes one wonder just why they've bothered to merge schools in order to save money...)

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig


I know that they're doing because they can. Everybody reading these words would do the same thing.These people are connected and interconnected and that's why students and their parents need to weigh the benefit and added value these people bring to the table (if any).My contention is that students should search for value in their education and not be blinded by a brand name.For sure it has value-Just ask any University Of Phoenix grad if they would have rather gone to a respected state college- but I worry about the students that borrow 100K or more to send these slick salesmen on two week fact finding missions to the Nokia Sugar Bowl.


And rankings? Rankings are for a college of thousands and tens of thousands. Each student is an individual and they can be poorly served by a college that has "good rankings".

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Astropig @OriginalProf 

So what you're really advising is that Georgia students go to out of state universities (where they'll pay out-of-state tuition ), or to one of Georgia's private schools where they'll pay more for sure.


"Ranking" is adopted by the Regents to indicate how advanced the school is-- what level of graduate degrees they offer--- not whether the school is "the best." Of course, the faculty and facilities must be of a certain caliber for the Regents to grant that a school may offer doctoral programs, the qualification for "research universities."  But if a student isn't interested in doctoral programs, or doctoral caliber faculty, there's no point in going there, I agree.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Astropig @OriginalProf  "Everybody reading these words would do the same thing."


I know you won't believe me, but I wouldn't. If someone offered me a million in perks and I knew that those working under me - the people I depended upon to do their job so I could do MY job - had not gotten a raise in years, I would refuse the "perks".  To me, to do so is akin to selling one's soul, and my soul is worth more to me than that million.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Quidocetdiscit @Astropig @OriginalProf 

I don't think you fully understand the psychology, drive, and scrambling ambition of most  presidents of large universities who have clawed their way to the top of the heap. The usual story is that the person began as a high-publishing faculty member, became a department chair, then became dean of the college, usually a large one connected with the sciences. Then began applying for national presidential positions. 

The ones (always outsiders) who are chosen very often perform some unpleasant task for the Chancellor, whether it is getting rid of deadwood faculty who have been there forever and get high salaries but no grants or deadwood chairs who have "old-fashioned" ideas like shared governance between faculty and administration.  In other words, such new presidents serve as hatchet-men/women.  And they're usually up and out within 5-7 years.  A million $ salary keeps them around longer.

Kvinnan2
Kvinnan2

@Astropig @Kvinnan2 

"It's as if a McDonalds cashier were warning us ..."

Or Hillary Clinton lambasting greed in one of her $200,000 college commencement speeches.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

And here is a short excerpt from a more recent article on the issue in Slate. Slate looked at a report from the Institute for Policy Studies on the rising pay for public college presidents: 


Its report argues that a group of public colleges is showering its top administrators with money, while shortchanging spending on faculty and financial aid. At the 25 state universities with the best paid executives, it notes, student debt grew faster than at the average state school. Compensation packages at those institutions also grew far quicker than at public colleges on the whole.


http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/05/20/college_president_pay_is_it_too_high.html