Monday, January 18, 2010

Pay in the Public Sector -- College Presidents

As tuitions skyrockets, courses are cut, and layoffs continue at colleges across the United States, one thing continues to rise -- the salaries and benefits of college presidents. Even without actual cash pay, most college presidents are provided free housing, free meals, free transportation, free attendance to expensive athletic events, free this, free that....then, on top of all the free stuff, they receive wampum cash and benefits. The grand winner is the current president of Ohio State who makes $ 1.4 million which is about the 30 times the average compensation of the typical Ohio taxpayer (assuming he/she has a job).

Why the largesse for a job that a large number of qualified folks would gladly do for nothing? That's easy enough to answer. There is no market here. Being president of a college is basically a public job. You have little or nothing to do but ceremonial functions. After all, most of your work force can't be fired, disciplined or controlled in any mannner whatsoever. Most have tenure and those that don't, have effective tenure. So, what is your job exactly. You aren't permitted to interfere whatsoever with performance, work rules or anything that ultimately determines delivery of the product. Instead you are dispatched to snuggle up to rich folks and convince them to write your college a big check. More and more college boards of trustees see fund raising as the main responsibility of a college president.

Needless to say there is not much accountability here. They can pay the president whatever they want and their employees can do whatever they want. To distinguish themselves, college presidents have taken up various liberal causes that they know will be popular with faculty and students -- diversity, environmentalism, multi-cultural studies, etc. These are mostly political adventures and have nothing to do with the basic functions of education, but they play well politically with their constituency. If you don't play these kinds of political games, you have no chance or gaining one of these coveted presidencies. Free marketers need not apply.

The result: exploding tuition, overcrowded classrooms, a broad decline in educational quality, skyrocketing grades, expanded vacations, focus on big time athletics, and extraording pay packages of college administrators. It isn't just the college president, who is raking in the long green. The burgeoning population of special purpose administrators routinely are paid three to four times the compensation afforded full professors.

Nothing will check this trend. There is no market force at work here and boards of trustees do what the administrators want them to do and number one on their agenda is more money for themselves. Meanwhile, like most rich folks, the college presidents of today lead the charge for big government and big deficit spending.