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Cal State trustees to consider cap on raises for new executives

January 24, 2012 |  2:51 pm

The chairman of California State University’s governing board said Tuesday that he will propose capping raises for new executives at 10% in the wake of stinging criticism over recent salary decisions.

Herb Carter, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said that the limit would address concerns raised by several state lawmakers who have introduced legislation that would establish stricter policies for setting compensation.

Trustees were meeting in Long Beach Tuesday and Wednesday and are scheduled to consider revising the formula used to set salary and benefits for new presidents at the 23-campus institution.

That method would use a list of comparison colleges and universities from around the country to determine appropriate compensation. Cal State officials have long argued that they must offer competitive salaries to attract the most qualified candidates.

But legislators, as well as Gov. Jerry Brown, have criticized the approach as flawed at a time when the state’s budget crunch has forced deep funding cuts at Cal State and the University of California.

The controversy came to a head in July when trustees approved an annual salary of $400,000 -- $350,000 in general funds and $50,000 from a campus foundation — for Elliot Hirshman, the new president of San Diego State University, at the same meeting in which tuition was increased by 12%. Hirshman's salary is $100,000 more than his predecessor.

Carter’s proposal would set a maximum of about $325,000 for most presidents. 

The salary controversy had become a distraction that was hampering discussion of other important issues, he said.

“We have been accused of being tone deaf and we are not,” Carter said. “We need to get this discussion behind us and we need to get back to the discussion of how do we retain and graduate students.”

-- Carla Rivera