Presidents of the smallest California State University campuses earned as much as $353,000 in 2009
Presidents of the smallest California State University campuses earned as much as $353,000 in 2009, including one whose enrollment is barely larger than an Orange County high school.
An analysis by the Orange County Register of CSU schools with less than 10,000 students showed that when it comes to presidents' pay in the 23-campus system, size doesn't matter.
Richard Rush. President of Cal State University Channel Islands.
COURTESY OF CAL STATE CHANCELLOR'S OFFICE
- Rollin C. Richmond, president of the Humboldt campus since 2002, is among the highest paid officials at $353,000, overseeing an enrollment of 7,954. That works out to $44 per student, compared to $8 per student at Cal State Fullerton. Fullerton President Milton Gordon collects $302,041 to oversee an enrollment of 36,262.
- Richard R. Rush, president of the Channel Islands campus, oversees an enrollment of 3,862 – about 600 more students than Santa Ana High School. But he collects $340,817, about $88 per student.
- William Eisenhardt, president of the nationally recognized California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, has pushed enrollment to 823 since the campus joined the system in 1995. He makes $263,581 or $320 per student. Eisenhardt earns about $30,000 more than the average Orange County school district superintendent.
- Ruben Arminana, president of the Sonoma campus, collects $347,856 or $40 per student at the school of 8,500.
As part of their compensation, Arminana, Rush and Richmond receive a housing allowance of $50,000 to $60,000. Eisenhardt and Gordon receive free housing, which CSU officials said they could not place a value on. Gordon lives on a 4-acre former ranch that was donated to the Fullerton university.
Presidents' pay is a sore spot with faculty as the CSU system fights this year to avoid the budget knife. The governor proposed restoring $305 million in one-time cutbacks, while a federal grant of $106 million will allow the system to admit 10,000 new students and restore 3,000 course selections.
Andy Merrifield, associate vice-president for the California Faculty Association, said that presidents' pay doesn't appear tied to enrollment, budget or tenure, but to a mindset among trustees that the top executive at each campus be paid well.
"There's a sense of entitlement to being a university president," said Merrifield, a political science professor at Sonoma State. "The trustees would rather err on the side of overpayment than underpayment."
The Register's analysis showed that half the 74,229 workers in the system – which includes part-time employees – make less than $28,806. The average pay is $35,239. The highest paid president in the CSU system in 2009 was Warren J. Baker at San Luis Obispo at $394,136. Baker retired this year. The highest paid employee is Chancellor Charles B. Reed at $410,399.
CSU officials said Reed and the trustees have to pay competitively in light of a survey that showed CSU presidents were among the lowest paid in the country. The 2007 study by Mercer Consulting showed that CSU presidents made an average salary of $291,822, compared to an average of $407,415 for a pool of 20 private and public universities across the nation.
Michael Uhlenkamp, spokesman for the chancellor's office, said enrollment was not a good way to factor presidents' pay.
"I don't think looking at a headcount is a fair way to gauge. There's a lot more you have to take into account, the responsibility they have and the experience they bring," said Uhlenkamp. University presidents traditionally are expected to be part educator, part business executive and part fund-raiser for their campuses. Uhlenkamp said all those variables, as well as tenure, come into play.
"To recruit someone at the presidential level, you can't hire people at the salary I make ($90,000)," Uhlenkamp said.
The CSU system is conducting a national search for new presidents at San Jose and San Luis Obispo, and is about to launch a search for a president for San Diego.
Officials at Humboldt defended Richmond's compensation, saying he often spends time in the classroom and with students, earning him statewide accolades. Spokesman Paul Mann said campus enrollment has risen four consecutive years.
"Quality is more important than quantity," Mann said.
Officials at the Channel Islands campus declined comment for this story.
The campus at a former state hospital in Camarillo was recently declared one of the best universities to work at by the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is the newest school in the system, just 8 years old, and is in a growth mode.
At the Maritime Academy, spokesman Doug Webster said the school was among the highest regarded of its kind in the nation. It is aimed at teaching future boat captains and maritime professionals. Most of the students live on campus and part of the instruction occurs on the ocean. They hope to have a master's program in the next 1½ years.
Webster said the campus is thinly staffed, giving the president more responsibilities.
"If you look at the workload, the level of compensation for President Eisenhardt is certainly justified," Webster said.
At Sonoma, officials said president Arminana's responsibilities could not be measured by the number of students or the economy of scale. He oversees what amounts to a small city with campus housing, health services, psychological care and education.
"We're so understaffed these days, just in general," said campus spokeswoman Susan Kashack.
The Register also looked at overtime in the CSU system. Many of the employees do not receive overtime, but among those that do, Steven M. Lahey, an equipment technician at San Francisco, collected the most at $73,953 in 2009. That's more than his regular pay that year of $60,270.
Officials at the campus said Lahey filled in that year for another employee and was effectively working two jobs.
To see a searchable database of pay for all CSU employees go to ocregister.com/investigations.