College administrators rake in the dough while students go into massive debt

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, May 15, 2013

While students dig themselves into deeper debt over the rise of college tuition in the United States, college presidents and other top university staff are seeing their salaries rise at a record pace.

new report from the Chronicle of Higher Education found that the average college president at a public university made $441,392 during the 2011-2012 academic year. Sitting atop that list was former Penn State University President Graham Spanier, who was given nearly $2.5 million in severance and deferred pay following his retirement in November 2011. He is awaiting trial on several charges, including perjury, obstruction of justice and endangering the welfare of children, for his role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Other presidents at public colleges in the U.S. making more than $1 million annually include Jay Gogue of Auburn University in Alabama, E. Gordon Gee at Ohio State University, and Alan G. Merton of George Mason University.

For comparison purposes, tenured professors at public universities made an average salary of $118,054 during that timeframe, and 36 college presidents at private universities made more than $1 million during the 2011-2012 academic year as well. A report by the magazine Deadspin also found that college staffers – mainly head sports coaches – were the highest paid public officials in every state nationwide. As if we were confused on where their priorities laid!

None of this is welcome news to current or recent college students, with more than 6.8 million federal student loan borrowers in default on their loans. Nor is the fact that the Obama administration is on pace to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers – which is about the same as the combined net income of the assets at the nation’s four largest banks.

Senate Democrats think they’re helping today’s college student through two new bills introduced in the chamber this month. The legislation that freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced last week only does more harm than good, as it essentially creates more demand than what is available to be supplied – essentially replicating the housing mortgage bubble for student loans. Moreover, the “Student Loan Affordability Act” that Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada, Patty Murray of Washington, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Tom Harkin of Iowa put forth this week – which would keep the federal interest rate at 6.4 percent for students from low-income households, only helps a small subset of future student loan borrowers and does nothing for those already in debt.

When Bill Bennett, President Reagan’s Secretary of Education, thinks that only 150 of the nation’s 3500 universities are worth the investment because of the high cost of school today, it’s saying something.

Perhaps if schools were to place more focus on making college affordable for potential students, and not cushioning the salaries of their presidents and football coaches, fewer students would be dropping out or suing their alma maters because they can’t find a job in today’s weak economy.

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