Vulture Capitalism Is Alive and Well In Universities Across America

College and university administrators are squealing like little piggy’s in response to President Obama’s demand that they do something to make the cost of college education affordable again.

Fuzzy math, Illinois State University’s president called it. “Political theater of the worst sort,” said the University of Washington’s head.

President Barack Obama’s new plan to force colleges and universities to contain tuition or face losing federal dollars is raising alarm among education leaders who worry about the threat of government overreach. Particularly sharp words came from the presidents of public universities; they’re already frustrated by increasing state budget cuts.

The reality, said Illinois State’s Al Bowman, is that simple changes cannot easily overcome deficits at many public schools. He said he was happy to hear Obama, in a speech Friday at the University of Michigan, urge state-level support of public universities. But, Bowman said, given the decreases in state aid, tying federal support to tuition prices is a product of fuzzy math.

College presidents wary of Obama cost-control plan

I wonder how much Illinois State University’s president would be willing to cut from his salary to lower costs for students, or to raise the salaries of the low paid workers that actually make his university run day-to-day? Not much, I would bet.

And Big Al is not hurting.

llinois State University’s Board of Trustee’s has authorized a 4 percent salary increase for President Al Bowman. Bowman has not requested a salary increase since 2010. He will earn $384,000, up from his prior $369,000 dollar salary.

Illinois State University President Bowman to see increase in salary

I wonder if Big Al knows that that much money makes most American’s think he is doing pretty well, in fact, that he is “rich”.

Predictably, answers–based on Gallup polls–split along demographic fault lines, like gender, age, and geography. Men think they need to earn more money to qualify as rich compared with women. So do people in cities and suburbs compared with those who live in towns and rural areas. Adults with children under 18 define wealth as earning $200,000 a year. Adults without young children peg it at half that.

No real surprises there. The big shocker is that people’s responses are by and large fairly modest. Overall, Americans say that being loaded means earning just $150,000 a year.

That figure has shifted some over time; in 2003, it was $120,000. And nowadays compared with eight years ago, a larger chunk of people would only consider themselves rich if they brought in at least $1 million a year.

Infographic Of The Day: How Much Money Makes You Rich?

I just retired after 25 years working for a major mid-western university. In that time, I watched salaries for the vice presidents and top administrators go from around $65,000 to the current $300,000 level and still rising. The uni president’s salary jumped from around $200,000 to the current $500,000. And $100,000 of that was a jump in one year this past year from $400,000, at the end of a period of three years when university staff had received only one small raise. Most years had seen no raises in salary at all. Not only that, the number of useless upper level administrators and non-academic staff has grown explosively in the past 15 years.

It has just been the story of the last couple of decades. Vulture capitalism is alive and kicking among colleges and universities.

And what about the salaries of the workers? The secretaries? The technicians? The cleaning and grounds staff? If they were making 15,000 – 20,000 25 years ago, they were lucky. If they are making 30,000 – 35,000 now, 25 years later, they are lucky.

The disparity in salaries in academia staffing pretty much reflects the growing inequality in distribution of wealth in our society very accurately.


Author: Ron