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Risky pay hikes for college bosses



Kentucky is part of an epidemic of Wall Street-itis that has infected higher education with obscene executive pay syndrome.

This condition strikes when governing boards are so enamored of their chief executives they lose sight of the big picture. They start to act like corporate directors instead of guardians of a public trust and may forget their mission is to support the best teaching at a price that’s affordable for students.

Widespread exposure carries a risk for universities and colleges: The average taxpayer or lawmaker — someone, for example, looking at the report on presidential salaries by the Legislative Research Commission — might reasonably conclude that if Kentucky’s universities can afford such lavish pay at the top, they can do without more support from the state.

Instead of bolstering public support for higher education, board members begin to believe the true competitive measure of their institutions is presidential pay. …

As in corporate America, it’s often hard to discern any connection between performance and the upward spiral in CEO pay.

In Kentucky, the LRC found pay for presidents far outpaced faculty wages, and the report understates the growth in presidential salaries because it covers a four-year span ending in 2010.

Since then the University of Kentucky president’s base salary has increased by almost $200,000 to $500,000 — a 74 percent increase since 2006. …

Also, the University of Louisville board nearly doubled President James Ramsey’s pay last year to $600,000.

Remember these are base salaries and do not include other benefits that fatten presidential compensation. …

Kentucky’s community college presidents received average raises of nearly 12 percent while the average community college professor’s raise was 6 percent.

Meanwhile, thousands of Kentuckians lost their jobs or took pay cuts to stay employed, while universities and community colleges lost $105 million in state funding, with another cut of $62 million possibly on the way. …

— The Lexington Herald-Leader



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