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Cal State to consider letting foundations augment presidents' pay

May 1, 2012 |  1:23 pm

The California State University Board of Trustees will consider a new policy next week that would freeze state-funded pay for new university presidents, but allow college foundations to foot the bill for pay raises.

The proposal would freeze state-funded executive pay hikes through 2014, but also allow individual schools to use foundation dollars -- primarily donations -- to augment the salaries.

Cal State has faced strong criticism recently as newly hired presidents have received raises while state funding has dropped and tuition and fees have risen. In July, the board approved an annual salary of $400,000 -- $100,000 more than his predecessor -- for the new president of San Diego State.

Cal State has lost nearly $1 billion in state funding since 2008, forcing cuts in classes, faculty and staff layoffs, and the denial of admission to thousands of students.

Tuition has increased six years in a row, including a 9% hike this fall that will raise the annual rate for undergraduates to $5,970, not including campus-based fees that average more than $1,000.

The university also recently announced plans to freeze enrollment for the spring 2013 term and to wait-list all applicants the following fall pending the outcome of a proposed tax initiative on the November ballot.

This week, students at six Cal State University campuses have vowed to fast until university leaders agree to freeze tuition, roll back administrative and executive salaries and meet other demands.

In January, trustees voted to limit such raises to 10% of the outgoing executive’s pay. Trustees have maintained that such pay raises are necessary to attract the most qualified candidates to lead Cal State universities.

The use of foundation funds to pay for executive salaries is not uncommon in higher education, Cal State spokeswoman Claudia Keith said.

“This is appropriate when state funds are continuing to dwindle and the Legislature continues to disinvest in education,” she said. “We still have to be competitive and hire the best people we can.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and several legislators have criticized trustees as being tone deaf for awarding pay hikes to new campus presidents while students struggle to pay tuition.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) said in a statement Tuesday that the proposal puts executive pay ahead of the needs of students.

“This latest masquerade demonstrates that the Board of Trustees will raise the salaries of executives by any means necessary,” he said.

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