As tuition rises, some college presidents in Virginia are still raking it in

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January 26, 2010

12:49 AM

Many colleges have called for an increase in tuition, which is not surprising considering the dire situation in which our nation’s economy currently finds itself. Institutions across the country are asking students to reach even further into their pockets to help alleviate the pressure of severe budget cutting. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Virginia is one of four states currently experiencing drastic cuts to financial support for higher education, receiving 16 percent less funding than last year.

The decision of many top Virginia schools to raise tuition was a necessary one — or was it? Disturbing information has surfaced that calls into question the relationship between a college, its students and its president: Some Virginia schools are forcing a value on students that their own presidents can’t keep — frugality.

Not only are tuitions increasing, but so are the salaries of college presidents. The Chronicle of Higher Education determined that the median salary of public university presidents during the 2008-2009 school year rose more than 2 percent from the previous one, an increase that is particularly troubling in the case of two other Virginia public institutions — Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. Both U.Va. and Tech increased tuition for their students, yet both have presidents who are among the top-ten-highest paid in the United Sates.

Charles W. Steger, Tech’s president, ranks eighth in the nation, receiving $732,064 a year for his role. However, Steger’s salary is significantly smaller than that of John T. Casteen III, U.Va.’s president, who ranks fourth, and receives an annual salary of $797,048. Many other presidents face large budget cuts, yet are compensated considerably less than are U.Va. or Tech’s presidents.

College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley receives $332,100 for his position. And even President Barack Obama is awarded only $570,000 annually for his service as leader of our nation.

Even more shocking than last year’s 2.3 percent median increase in pay for college presidents during a time when there is supposed to be a freeze on the salaries of all Virginia state employees, this increase was substantially smaller than the increases of the last four years, all of which were at least 7.5 percent and as high as 19 percent in 2005. Considering this statistic, if public universities were really trying to trim their budgets, they should have rolled back the haphazard pay increases of previous years.

Most of these pay increases have come from private sources. If public universities can raise adequate salaries for their presidents from private donors, then the state should find more practical ways to spend public funds. Just as decreases in public funding result in higher tuition, more private donations should just as soon lower tuition.

Where is the dedication to education that college presidents are supposed to uphold? When colleges stop rooting for the students and start turning into capitalistic entities, more and more students will slip through the cracks into less fruitful lives.

The salaries of college presidents reflect a blatant disregard of our current financial woes, and this disrespect is affecting our lives at the College. We continually experience more budget cuts that will eventually lead to higher tuition. While our president may not be as overpaid as his peers, we are still affected by the inflated salaries of neighboring institutions. In essence, we are all eating off the same plate.

E-mail Adriana Green at [email protected]

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