By Richard Vedder
A few days ago, I pointed out that university president's pay has risen far faster than both inflation and the income of the general public over the past several decades. I forgot to add that in some respects this understates the pay increases given because of a modern tendency for schools to give their presidents very generous pay packages after they retire, often with only nominal work required in return. For example, Kent State University has decided to keep retiring president Carol Cartwright on the payroll at full salary --while her work responsibilities will diminish dramatically. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, perhaps unaware of how widespread this practice is, castigated Kent State roundly, saying in a period of rapidly rising tuition charges it was unwarranted to, in effect, pay two presidential salaries. I am inclined to agree.
The salary explosion is not confined to presidents or other senior administrators, like provosts and deans (business school deans often make well over $300,000 a year, for example). Senior research professors at top private research institutions make on average at least 60 percent more than their counterparts did in 1980, for example. By contrast, salary increases adjusted for inflation for assistant professors in community colleges rose hardly at all. There are growing salary disparities within higher education. The rewards for research and administration, not to mention coaching teams are rising sharply relative to the rewards for teaching, particularly undergraduate students. Adjunct faculty are paid peanuts to teach the masses, while senior faculty are given low teaching loads and big pay to think great thoughts -- and lure grants to support that thinking. Is all of this good? I doubt it. Is this partly a product of public policies that unintentionally and indirectly have made higher education more expensive, more elitist, and less interested in its core instructional mission? I think so. Stay tuned CCAP will be shining more light on these practices and their causes in the days and weeks ahead.