The new policy groups the 23 CSU campuses into five tiers and compares them to similar universities across the country. It also caps compensation for incoming presidents at 10 percent of the previous president’s salary in years where the Board of Trustees approves a fee increase.
The tiers come after repeated criticism on the former system to determine presidential pay. In the past, the CSU used a California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) recommendation to determine presidential salary. TheCPEC scale compared CSU schools to universities such as USC, Tufts and Rutgers.
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, who receives $350,000 in base salary with $30,000 additional annual compensation, is the second highest earning president in the CSU. The tiers, which are determined primarily by enrollment and budget, place Cal Poly with CSUs such as Fresno and Cal Poly Pomona.
Now, Cal Poly and other schools in its tier, “Group C,” are with colleges such as Northern Arizona University, Illinois State University and Boise State University. The mean base presidential pay at those campuses is slightly less than Armstrong’s, but is higher than all of the other CSUs in that grouping.
Chief of Staff for the California State Student Association and sociology senior Daniel Galvan said it may be unfair to compare Cal Poly to some of the schools in its tier.
“I kind of question the institutions we’re being compared to,” he said. “But it is fairer than it was under CPEC. Some of the other schools are specialized in research, whereas the CSU is not a researched-based institution.”
But Galvin said the 10 percent pay increase cap is a step in the right direction.
“This is a good balance between the CSU’s budget problems and trying to be competitive,” he said. “You have to have competitive pay to deal with the complex issues at a university like Cal Poly.”
Board of Trustees student representative Steve Dixon said the CSU should not be paying as much as it is to presidents entering at new campuses. He said the actions taken today were appropriate to help reduce pay for presidents entering the students.
“We don’t have to pay this much to a new hire,” Dixon said. “I really don’t believe we should pay presidents who are just entering the system more than someone who’s been there 20 years.”
State Senator Ted Lieu, who has worked to cap presidential pay, spoke at the Board of Trustees’ meeting. He has consistently cited the Board’s decision to award San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman a $400,000 salary last July; though during the same meeting, the Board increased student tuition by 12 percent.
Lieu is advocating a bill in the State Senate, SB 959, which would further regulate presidential pay. The bill would mandate that any president pay raise could not exceed 150 percent of the Chief Justice’s salary.
Lieu posted an audio recording where he explains the bill on his website.
“The reason we picked the chief justice is because not only is she a Supreme Court justice, but she administers the third branch of the judiciary,” Lieu said in the recording. “Whereas the CSU president only administers one campus.”
SB 959 would also not allow a presidential pay raise for three years after any student tuition increase. Ray Sotero, a spokesperson for Lieu, said the senator was pleased with the Board’s decision Wednesday.
“He is hopeful it is effective enough,” Sotero said. “He is going to take a few days to see if he’s going to pursue (SB 959) further.”
Dixon said after hearing Lieu speak at the Board of Trustees meeting today, he believes Lieu will withdraw the bill.