CSU Salaries: What's A Few Hundred Thousand, Anyway?

Senator Leland Yee's office is concerned about large discrepancies found in officials' income figures as reported by different sources.


The press release was delivered to us Thursday about mid-afternoon with a bold headline:

"CSU Fails to Fully Disclose Compensation of Top Executives"

"University officials refuse to answer inquiries, say it’s unnecessary to respond to public scrutiny"

The release came from Adam Keigwin, Chief of Staff in the office of Senator Leland Yee. It made for some pretty interesting reading.

According to Keigwin:

"Records show officials from the California State University system are failing to fully disclose the compensation of several of their top executives."

The Chief of Staff suggests "there are major compensation discrepancies when comparing IRS filings (Form 990) to records at the State Controller’s office and what CSU discloses on their website or in public records requests. In several cases, top administrators appear to be receiving tens of thousands of dollars more than what is being disclosed by the university."

Keigwin cites specific examples:

"CSU claims their campus president in Los Angeles has a total compensation of $325,000, whereas records at the Controller’s office show a salary $372,461 and IRS records show he received $515,612.

"CSU records show Sacramento campus president’s compensation at $295,000, whereas the Controller’s office reports a $351,541 salary and the IRS reports his compensation at $429,244.

The release goes on to cite other examples.

Here's a spreadsheet indicating the variances in reported income based on data received from Senator Yee's office:

CSU Reported State Controller IRS CSU-LA President $325,000 $372,461 $515,612 CSU-Sac President $295,000 $351,541 $429,244 CSU-SF President $298,749 $356,366 $423,536 CSU Chancellor $421,500 $399,326 $488,827 CSU Vice-Chancellor $240,000 $274,694 $295,007

Keigwin says that in March, Senator Yee and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge) sent a letter to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed asking for an explanation into the discrepancies.

According to Keigwin, "After a number of requests for the Chancellor’s office to respond, Yee’s office received an email on May 8 from an Assistant Vice Chancellor stating, 'Not sure we felt it was necessary to respond to the ongoing and never ending critical communications.'"

Yee’s office says it has also contacted the San Francisco State University president’s office, but has not received a response.

“The CSU administration needs to stop hiding and come clean,” said Yee in the press release. “While they may not like the public scrutiny into their executive pay practices, they have a responsibility to the students and taxpayers of California to be fully transparent.”

“I am so disappointed in the CSU administration for continuing to hide compensation practices from public view,” said Portantino. “Our students, families and taxpayers demand and deserve better.”

Yee had the final word. “They simply do not have the right to use tax dollars as their own private piggy bank.”

What do you think? Is the CSU system brass hiding something? If they really are making more than they're reporting publicly, does it matter? Or is this more a situation of political hyperbolae?

Additionally, is it important to pay university administrators these large salaries to insure the best education for kids attending school in the CSU system? Does it give the CSU system competitive advantage to be able to offer big salaries in order to recruit the best educational minds?

What do you think?

Let us know, with your comments, and by voting below in our poll.

Tim Chafee May 20, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Damn! We all can identify the problems but can't fix them without legislating morality. Either way, the game is rigged.
Kali May 22, 2012 at 10:17 AM
I agree 100% with all of you. I am tired of paying a good portion of the "Special Charges" Ipay on my property taxes to School Bonds and Parcel taxes . In San Carlos, they want to put a 52 million dollar Bond on the Ballot in Nov to build a new school and other items. I asked if San Carlos could put a financial statement on our website detailing how our currnet expensive bond and parcel taxes are being spent. I have yet to see anything and yet they want more money. This along with the 45% we pay in state taxes that are supposed to go to schools. After the Fiasco at CSM, everyone should vote no on ALL Bond or Parcel tax measures for schools no matter how much they whine or send out those pretty ( and expensive ) flyers. Seems CSM is doing fine without their 528 million, and so will our schools. If overcrowding is the issue, get creative with the money you have. How about stopping the free breakfasts, lunchs, dinners? I am hearing now. Mental Health experts? Really? Also, to enter school, every child needs to know english before he/she can enter. I KNOW we can save money there.
Steve Voelker May 22, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I work on a CSU campus. I used to argue for more tax money to keep the schools going, while staring enviously at the continual ballot measures for K-12 school funding while we fended for ourselves a great deal. But I learned something; my family and friends would continually say "We'd be glad to put more tax money into schools, so long as it could be guaranteed that the money actually went to where it would do some good- can you guarantee that?" I honestly admit that there are no guarantees- after the legislature dips into the funds for their pet projects, and the suits get their cut, there is usually little left for teachers and "infrastructure people" like me to teach classes and provide computers that work well enough for the students to use. What we have here is a situation like an alcoholic- where "rock bottom" will be hit before help is sought. I fear for the people who will be hurt by this; I will likely be one of them. But there are students, faculty and staff besides me who are working like mad to make this work in spite of the problems and they will be hurt, too. Government officials have not yet learned to live within their means- they've simply begun stripping and cannibalizing good programs so they can continue to eat lobster while the rest of us are having trouble affording peanut butter. To my disillusioned eyes, this situation is going to plunge off the cliff before it starts to improve. I, for one, apologize to you all.
Jo Tog May 22, 2012 at 06:17 PM
There are no guarantees that the taxed money goes to where it says it will go. In fact, majority of ALL MONIES go to line someone's pocket. Stop electing people who are tax happy. Stop electing people who think that raising taxes is the answer. Ask all elected officials questions about taxes. DO YOUR PART. Public Employee Pensions, Social Security, Road Infrastructure, etc. have all been robbed of their money and are seriously underfunded. Where did the money go to?
Milan Moravec May 27, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Access, affordability to University of California Berkeley is farther and farther out of reach. UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau is outspoken on why elite public universities, like Cal, should charge Californians much more. With Birgeneau’s leadership number 1 ranked Harvard is less costly (all in costs) than Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau’s charge much more tuition to Californians makes Cal. the most expensive public higher education in our country! Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) likes to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar expected. The Chancellor’s ‘charge Californians more’ tuition skyrocketed fees by an average 14% per year from 2006 to 2011-12 academic years. If Birgeneau had allowed fees to rise at the same rate of inflation over the past 10 years they would still be in reach of most middle income students. Increased funding is not Cal’s solution.


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