NC Higher Education salaries

Op-ed blasts skyrocketing administrator salaries in UNC system as faculty pay lags

UNCsystemNorth Carolina’s conservative political leaders and their appointees appear to be making ever more headway in their ongoing effort to “run state government like a business.” The only problem is that the business model they evidently have in mind is something out of the Donald Trump empire.

As a group of UNC system professors (including occasional NC Policy Watch contributor Michael Behrent of Appalachian State) explained this morning, in an excellent essay in Raleigh’s News & Observer, state leaders are bestowing big salaries and big salary hikes on university administrators even as they slash investments in higher education, ratchet up tuition and leave faculty pay stuck in the mud.

“Another steep cut in state education budgets? These days, little could surprise North Carolinians less. However, something unexpected recently happened: The UNC Board of Governors – whose 32 members were all appointed by the Republican legislature – contemplated a rare spending spree: They voted to allow generous pay raises for top university administrators.

The UNC president and chancellors could increase the compensation ranges for “vice presidents, vice chancellors, deans and other administrators.” Using a new model recommended to the Board of Governors by a consulting firm, the pay range for a vice president for research and graduate education, for instance, would be between $242, 829 and $388, 526.

If your gut tells you this sounds excessive, you’re right. It is.

In this era of relentless state disinvestment from public education, such administrative pay raises will inevitably be financed by North Carolinians’ tuition dollars. Moreover, pay hikes for administrators exacerbate one of the most outrageous and unnecessary trends in contemporary higher education.”

The essay concludes this way:

“Runaway salaries for top university administrators and presidents are as problematic as lavish compensation for CEOs. The issue is not simply, as defenders will contend, that the “market” dictates such largesse. Rather, the problem is that the administrators who occupy the commanding heights of our universities engage in what economist Thomas Piketty calls ‘rent-seeking’: They use their positions of authority and wealth to enhance their authority and wealth.

It is far from clear that their priorities, steeped in the worst vices of the market mentality, will address the needs of ordinary Americans who seek what public universities have traditionally promised: meaningful employment, a sense of democratic citizenship and a rich intellectual life.


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