State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) proposed legislation last week that would prevent raises for top executive officers in California public colleges during years of student fee increases.
According to Yee, the bill, SB 217, would address the issue that student fees have increased over 94 percent since 2002 at CSU, while top executives have gotten 23 percent pay raises.
The bill would define executive officers as those officers making over $200,000 a year.
“The senator has worked on improving higher education for years,” said Yee’s chief of staff Adam J. Keigwin.
“[Yee’s] frustrated as a taxpayer, knowing that [executives] are receiving pay hikes,” said Keigwin, explaining why the senator chose to propose the bill in San Francisco State’s newspaper The Golden Gate Express.
Xiao Lei, a field representative for Yee, echoed similar sentiments.
“There has been a lot of research done concerning student fee raises,” Lei said. “Yee had a feeling that student fees are going to pay checks, rather than to education funds.“
Yee said in a press release that as a graduate of both the UC and CSU, he wants the systems to be successful and accessible to California students. He says the bill is part of that cause.
Raymond D. Cotton, vice president for higher education at ML Strategies LLC, a government consulting firm, disagrees.
“If California needs additional funds for schools, then legislators need to have the guts to put a cap on tuition instead of penalizing executives,” Cotton said. “The legislature is not doing an adequate job if the executives have to raise tuition.“
California resident tuition and fees currently add up to $9,494 per year at UC Davis, an increase from the $8,925 charge in the 2007-2008 year. It was $8,323 the previous year, according to the UC Davis Office of Resource Management and Planning (ORMP).
Paul Fain, a senior reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education and a contributor to its annual executive compensation survey, thinks the bill is more of a symbolic show to send a message that salaries are too high.
“California generally underpays administrators compared to the rest of the country,” Fain said. “The highest salary in the UC is $500,000, while it is $1.3 million at Ohio State. UCs are elite schools, but there is still the question: Will capping salaries limit top people from working there? Will they take other jobs?”
Fain says salaries are only a tiny percentage of costs, and that California’s salary situation is even more so. Four percent of the total budgeted use of the $1.8 billion general fund at UC Davis went to salaries, according to ORMP.
Low executive salaries could hurt UC Davis in its search for a new chancellor, Fain said.
“Davis will be out on that market,” Fain said. “Not to say that everything is about money, but capping the salary could limit the pool of those willing to go out for the job.“
Public colleges have yet to release statements about the legislation.
“UC is currently taking time to assess the potential impacts of the bill on UC,” said UC Office of the President spokesperson Paul Schwartz. “We’ll have a better sense of our position after undertaking an analysis of the legislation.”
The CSU system issued a similar statement.
The bill is currently in Senate Rules Committee, and Yee said he hopes it gets passed by the end of August, making it effective Jan. 1, 2010 if signed by the governor.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.