Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Of Tuition Hikes and Salary Spikes...

The national and state economic collapse--and the way in which our lawmakers at both levels of government have responded-- has wreaked havoc on California's higher education system, once considered the state's crown jewel and an achievement that led the world in expanding college access to all citizens.   This week, California State University trustees and UC regents are voting on hefty tuition hikes that will see CSU tuition raised by an additional 12% on top of the 10% that was voted on last November and UC tuition likely increased by 9.6% in addition to the 8% that took effect this summer.   UC tuition was raised 32% last year.  CSU tuition is also up by about a third over the past couple of years.   The Sacramento Bee reported that the impact of higher tuition could be most burdensome to middle class families, who typically might not qualify for financial aid packages.  

CSU trustees gained additional attention this week when they also voted to increase the salary for San Diego State University's new president, Elliot Hirschman, by 33.3% from what his predecessor made.  Hirschman will earn $350,000 a year, receive another $50,000 from school's private fundraising arm, live in campus housing and get a $1,000 a month car allowance.

Governor Brown voiced his strong disapproval to the salary hike in a letter sent to trustees before they voted.   State Senator Ted Lieu  fired off his response today, in which he said he is mulling over introducing legislation to cap such salaries. 

“You cannot behave like Wall Street and give unsustainable salaries to your executives,” Lieu wrote. “I flat out reject the argument that there was no one else in the world good enough at a $300,000 salary such that you had to give a $100,00 raise.”

While he is certainly looking to score political points, is Lieu on to something?    For years, corporate executives and boards have insisted that hefty salary increases and compensation packages are necessary to attract and keep good talent, even as salary and benefits for rank and file workers have declined steadily. 

Is this indeed true?    And should this practice be embraced and emulated in the public sector (that part of our economy where services are provided for by the government and paid for by taxpayers)?   Are there potentially destructive consequences to the economy and society from an ever-widening income gap between boss and worker and public servant and the people he/she serves?   If so, what are they?   What is the message this action sends to the students and their families struggling to secure and pay for a spot in California's public colleges and universities?    Or is this mostly an unwarranted distraction from the issue at had, the severe underfunding of higher education in a state that claims as it public education mission to prepare all students for college?  

Just a hint of the questions we take on in class.      Discuss.


  1. Ms J, his pay is important. First, he is a public official and as a public official his job should not be about living rich. Yes he should make a good income but if he wants to live like a big businessman than he needs to be a businessman and take on risk and profit and all of that crap. he could do quite well with 100 hundred thousand less just like the guy who was there before him. Second all the talk about sharing sacrifice during hard times is really not true when those at the top of the pile are not sacrificing anything at all. I am really sick of not being able to get the classes i need when I need them and paying so much more at the same time. My family can't contribute any more and I am really starting to worry about not being able to get through to my degree.

  2. Not a good day to be a Aztec...

    Class of 1985