Let’s look at college president pay

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By GENE H. McINTYRE

How much does a salaried person need to be paid to live comfortably in Corvallis, Eugene or Portland?  Well, of course, it’s relative and depends on one’s requirements for “the good life.”  But, really now, when you think about it, do you think in terms of an annual gross salary of $100,000? $200,000? $300,000? to live comfortably?  Or, what’s your estimate to establish and maintain “happiness”?

Let’s say for argument’s sake, your requirement for the good life in Oregon is in the $600,000 range.  And, in addition to that in-your-pocket-income, you received a house allowance, a car and, further, considerable help with spending for meals, lodging and total travel cost reimbursements to meetings in-and-out-of-state and other “necessary” expenses.

We’re talking here about the total compensation paid to the presidents of Oregon State University ($589,000), Portland State University ($512,786) and the two most recent at the University of Oregon (One fired without finishing the year but received an income of $485,450 plus a severance allowance) and the other an interim president until a permanent replacement is appointed ($273,318).  These amounts are credited to each of the presidents of Oregon’s largest public universities in a recent report on the subject by a national journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle’s survey did not include the total compensation of Oregon’s public university presidents at Eastern, Southern, Western, Oregon Institute of Technology and the state’s community colleges.  Can you take a wild guess at why it is virtually impossible to find out total compensation amounts paid to them by searching ‘high and low’ on the Internet?

Other than that national journal’s survey, the Oregon University System’s interim chancellor, Melody Rose, has had her total compensation package revealed by an inquiring press as something close to $300,000.  Rudy Crew, the Kitzhaber-appointed chief education officer, who is Rose’s boss, as he has been hired to oversee pre-school through college, enjoys a starting salary (with no accounting for total compensation) at $280,000.

Then there are the students who attend the state’s three major universities and other public two- and four-year colleges and universities across Oregon.  They are going into debt at a rate so high that the total amount nationwide owed by them at present is more than $900 billion (yes, that’s a “b”).  And that figure, by way of comparison, is $300 billion more than the total credit card debt of all Americans today.

America’s college and university graduates with baccalaureate degrees can come away at graduation day with a debt easily topping amounts between $50,000 and $100,000 (Then there’s the nearly compulsory graduate school debt).  And that means that, unless they ill-advisedly default, they will be paying that money back at exorbitant interest rates (3.40 percent at present but, unless stopped by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bill in Congress, the interest rate on financially subsidized federal student loans will increase to 6.80 percent).  Oh, by the way, the Federal Reserve loans to U.S. banks at the rate of 0.75 percent.

What’s to be concluded from this matter and a related one is that we have a collection of cowards in this state? That collection arguably includes Oregon’s governor, a number of legislators—most of GOP affiliation. Many in the private sector who rank as the state’s financially wealthiest citizens, big business and industry, all those who want the burden to be others’ responsibility and Oregon’s largest newspapers, those in Portland and Salem.

The reason for the “coward” label on these folks has to do with the apparent and enduring fact that they want to continue to place the financial burden of a public college education on the backs of the students who attend the state’s colleges and universities as well as their families and further encumber them with very high and lasting debt at excessive interest rates.  These are the same “cowards” that want PERS retirees to be taxed a penalty by way of diminished COLAs to pay for yet unknown “reforms” in public schools K-12 and making starved-for-human-and-material resources state services much better.

Cowards are people in power positions with inordinate influence who look around at their fellow citizens to identify those whom to them are least able to defend themselves against discriminatory assault and against whom the state’s majority can be rallied to persecute.  The enemies of public college students and PERS retirees believe they can do as they please with the college students and PERS retirees and keep themselves safe from further taxation and free of a shared social responsibility.

So, those who make the really big bucks in public education administration keep receiving excessive total compensation packages with annual 5 percent raises while their cronies and supporters—who are the beneficiaries of the tax burden on others—are kept safe from further taxation even when, as of last week, the latest state of Oregon’s revenue forecast predicts a greatly enhanced treasury at a quarter billion dollars.  Those are the folks in the capital and their allies who keep lowering support to public college students and who got a taste of “blood” when “PERS-Lite” was passed; now, they’re all vampires.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

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