Pay for Cal State presidents has grown at nearly twice the rate as pay for lecturers

In her first year as chancellor of the California State University system, Mildred García will earn just under $1 million in total compensation to lead the nation’s largest system of higher education. 

That’s more than triple Gov. Gavin Newsom’s compensation. It’s also a steep increase from the three previous chancellors who led the 23-campus system.

According to an analysis by CalMatters using publicly available salary data, system leaders and presidents in the Cal State system have seen their pay increase at a higher rate than full-time professors and lecturers over the past 15 years.

While the Cal State system aims for executive salaries to be at the median of comparable institutions nationwide, trends pushing that median upward have resulted in larger salaries for the system’s chancellor and campus presidents.

Cal State is facing backlash for approving student tuition increases earlier this year and simultaneously raising executive pay during a $1.5 billion budget deficit. Meanwhile, the California Faculty Association is preparing to strike for increased pay. The faculty union has four strikes planned for early December at Cal Poly Pomona, San Francisco State, Cal State Los Angeles and Sacramento State.

García inherits a system with a long list of priorities — chief among them, negotiating raises for the 29,000 instructors the faculty union represents. The union said Oct. 31 that 95% of its members who voted approved of strike plans amid negotiations to lift the minimum wages for the lowest-paid instructors and increase salaries generally, among other demands. 

CalMatters reached out for an interview with García, but she declined through Cal State spokesperson Amy Bentley-Smith.  

“The CSU should use the budget … for direct instruction and student advancement, not for continued expansion of administrative bloat and endless administrative positions at the Chancellor’s Office and on all 23 campuses.” CHARLES TOOMBS, FACULTY UNION PRESIDENT AND AFRICANA STUDIES PROFESSOR AT SAN DIEGO STATE

At the Cal State Board of Trustees meeting in July,  faculty and union members criticized executive salary increases at the university system. At that meeting, the board voted in favor of the chancellor’s compensation package and discussed a proposal to increase student tuition.

“The CSU should use the budget it receives from the state for direct instruction and student advancement,” said Charles Toombs, faculty union president and Africana studies professor at San Diego State, “not for continued expansion of administrative bloat and endless administrative positions at the Chancellor’s Office and on all 23 campuses.”  

Additionally, student leader Dominic Treseler said at the July meeting a tuition hike beginning in Fall 2024 would adversely affect students. 

“Students should not bear the inequitable burden of addressing revenue shortfalls for the system,” said Treseler, president of the Cal State Student Association and a senior studying political science at San Jose State. Nevertheless, the board voted in September to increase tuition by 34% over five years. 

Rate of salary increases for instructors lag behind executives 

Cal State presidents have seen their base salaries grow by an average of 43% between 2007 and 2022, translating to an average $119,882 salary increase per campus president over that time. 

In 2022, all 23 presidents received a 7% raise. Additionally, 14 of the presidents who underwent three-year reviews received additional equity increases between 6.7% and 20%.

“Even after making the general salary increases and other market adjustments, 17 campus presidents remain below their peer group median salary,” Bentley-Smith wrote in an email statement.

The Cal State chancellor has seen significant salary increases over the same 15-year period — increasing 38% from a $451,500 base salary for former chancellor Charles Reed in 2007 to a $625,000 base salary for interim chancellor Jolene Koester in 2022. 

The Cal State Board of Trustees allotted an additional 27% salary bump in July 2023 when they approved a $795,000 base salary for García. Additionally, $80,000 in deferred compensation, a $96,000 annual housing allowance, and a $1,000 monthly auto stipend brought her total compensation package to just under $1 million a year.

In comparison, instructor salaries have been slower to grow. On average, lecturer salaries at Cal State increased by 22% within the past 15 years, translating to a $13,000 pay bump for the system’s 3,000 full-time lecturers. In Fall 2022, full-time lecturers earned an average of $71,255.  

Meanwhile, professor pay has risen at a rate of 30% since 2007, going from an average of $93,643 to  $122,016 in Fall 2022. Full professors, the top rank on the tenure track, at Cal State are the highest-paid faculty while lecturers are the lowest. 

“Yeah, I can’t even describe how bad it feels. But it feels horrible. But here I am.”CLAIRE GARRIDO-ORTEGA, CO-PRESIDENT OF THE FACULTY UNION AT CAL STATE LONG BEACH AND HEALTH SCIENCE LECTURER

Even for students, the pay disparity between on-the-ground faculty is concerning. 

“It’s kind of crazy to expect our faculty members to be able to perform so well at such a low compensation rate,”  Treseler said.

Claire Garrido-Ortega, co-president of the faculty union at Cal State Long Beach and health science lecturer, said in her 18 years of teaching in higher education, she has only received one pay increase as a result of union bargaining in 2020.

“Yeah, I can’t even describe how bad it feels,” she said. “But it feels horrible. But here I am.”

Cal State spent about a third of its $12 billion budget on salaries and wages during the 2022-23 year. Of that expense, nearly half, or just over $2 billion, went to faculty. Staff expenses came to one-third, at $1.4 billion. Most of the rest of the funds went to other employees, including student assistants. The smallest slice,  just 0.3%, or $14.3 million, covered executive salaries. While the executive expenses increased by $3 million over the past five years, the net percentage of the budget did not increase.

A 2022 systemwide review of staff salaries in the Cal State system found that they “have not kept pace with general industry or with other higher education institutions” over the past 15 years. Of the employees who responded, 96% agreed the CSU lacks “an appropriate and consistent process for advancing the pay of employees.”

Cal State isn’t the only system in the state rewarding executives with raises. Within the past decade, University of California chancellors, equivalent to CSU presidents, had an average salary increase of 73%, or $233,738, between 2012 and 2022. 

In July 2020, UC Regents approved an $890,000 base salary for UC President Michael Drake, the system leader, a steep increase from his predecessor Janet Napolitano, who earned a base salary of $570,000 in 2019. 

Salaries for executives are increasing nationwide  

In spite of outcry from faculty and students over recent decisions from the board of trustees, pay for university executives has consistently increased across the country.

From 2010 to 2019, compensation for college presidents across 49 states, excluding Hawaii, increased 56%, according to an analysis published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The average salary for a college president rose from $543,000 in 2010, to $715,000 in 2019, an increase 32% above the rate of inflation, according to the article’s authors Judith Wilde and James Finkelstein, professors at George Mason University in Virginia. 

Part of what is driving salaries upward is the trend of campuses looking for candidates with corporate leadership experience, Wilde said. 

“People in those kinds of positions are used to seeing higher salaries,” Wilde said. “They see that most large universities have overall budgets of many millions if not into the billions of dollars.” 

Despite the nationwide upward trend, the reality is that California institutions are still on the lower end of the base salary nationally, according to Wilde, particularly in the Cal State system. She added that California generally has a higher cost of living than other states yet salaries do not reflect that fact when compared to administrators at other state institutions.

“The most ridiculous set of contracts we see are out of Florida. California is not anywhere near up to that,” Wilde said. “They’re low, particularly if you are thinking about the Cal State system, which has lower pay than the UC system.”

Presidential pay at Cal State is determined by the median salary of comparable institutions nationally, in addition to the candidate’s reputation, breadth of experience and other accomplishments, according to CSU compensation policy.

“We are a state institution at the end of the day and we have to be fiscally prudent with our resources,” Cal State’s Bentley-Smith said. “So we need to attract and retain the brightest and most talented in order to serve our mission and so we need to pay accordingly to attract those people.”

Bentley-Smith declined to answer whether executive salaries could be capped in the future, stating any policy change on executive pay would need to be initiated by the board of trustees.   

“The more we’re asked to do, the more society yells at us and says, ‘Oh, you’re failing at your mission,’ while you’re asking us to do a lot.”LYNN MAHONEY, SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY’S PRESIDENT

For Cal State presidents, each campus is grouped with comparable universities across the nation to assess the median salary.  The median salaries of the comparison groups sit at $498,269 on the high end and $370,234 on the low end.

In comparison, the average base salary for presidents in Texas public universities rounded to $670,000 in 2022. Additionally, three of the nation’s highest-paid presidents that year were in Texas. The University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston all paid their presidents over $1 million in base salary, also well above the $608,426 average of presidents in the UC system in 2022. 

At Cal State, presidents meet with the chancellor during the first year of appointment to discuss campus-specific goals and set starting compensation. For new presidents, base salary is not permitted to exceed their predecessor’s by more than 10% unless “extraordinary circumstances” arise – including the president’s recognized ability. 

A year later, they reconvene to discuss progress, after which reviews are conducted every three years, according to Cal State policy. Presidential reviews entail feedback from student and campus leadership as well as alumni.

Along with increases in salary, presidents are often granted additional compensation and perks during contract negotiations that can dramatically increase their full compensation. Presidents can consult with personal lawyers for added benefits such as exit agreements, allowing presidents to remain at their respective schools in the form of a teaching position, in some cases, even if removed for a specific reason. 

Former Cal State chancellor Joseph Castro resigned as the system’s leader in February 2022 after allegations he mishandled sexual harassment complaints. Castro then exercised his “retreat rights” to become a faculty member at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he started teaching in spring 2023. 

Wilde said there are typically no metrics to determine if a president is reaching the goals of the university. Executive contracts involving performance bonuses or incentives list things generally, such as increasing enrollment, without specific benchmarks. Wilde expects executive pay to continue the upward trends seen nationally.

Finklestein added that a president’s goals are often considered a private matter among the board and not made public. He said this further perpetuates the treatment of campus presidents as corporate executives rather than a leader of an educational institution.

The role of the campus president

San Francisco State University’s president, Lynn Mahoney, joined the campus in May 2019. Mahoney, who earns a base salary of $463,585, says her salary is at the median of comparable institutions.

Mahoney said her job includes four main roles: hiring and mentoring the campus leadership, promoting the university’s mission to external stakeholders, providing basic needs for students and guiding the campus as a moral and political leader.

“So my typical day is meeting, meeting, meeting, meeting,” Mahoney said.

She says over the past five years, increasing demands of presidents have made the job more difficult. Mahoney said colleges increasingly provide students’ basic needs, as well as moral and political guidance for the campus community during turbulent times locally, nationally and abroad.

In addition, she said she holds a lot of responsibility in her oversight of a $300 million budget, the success of 23,000 students and the well-being of all the employees.

“The more we’re asked to do, the more society yells at us and says, ‘Oh, you’re failing at your mission,’ while you’re asking us to do a lot,” Mahoney said. “So there’s another piece now to being a university president that is so much harder, and so much more complicated than it ever was before.”

Mahoney added that while base salaries for campus executives may be high, it’s a necessary tool for the system to recruit on a national stage. According to Mahoney, in hiring for her own campus, she’s lost candidates to campuses that could offer higher salaries and in states with lower costs of living than California. She thinks Chancellor García is the type of candidate many campuses across the nation would have loved to hire. 

“If the next state over is going to pay $900,000 or more, $1.2 million, how is the CSU going to recruit the kind of quality chancellor it needs to serve the largest, most impactful state university system?” Mahoney said.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

These are the highest-paid University of California employees

Each circle represents a University of California employee who made over $1 million in total compensation in 2022. Select a circle for details.

The University of California, among the most prestigious university systems in the country, is famous for its academic programs, research institutions and medical centers. But data shows that the university’s top-paid employees are not involved in any of these pursuits.

The very highest-paid employees in 2022 were not professors, chancellors or even the president of the university. Instead, the most compensated employees were UCLA football coach Chip Kelly, UC Berkeley football coach Justin Wilcox and UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin. Each head coach earned over $4 million last year.

That’s according to UC payroll data from Transparent California, a database of California public employee salaries. The Chronicle used this data to analyze the salaries of the 186,000 UC employees who made over $30,000 in total compensation last year. Total compensation includes base pay, overtime pay, other payments (like bonuses) plus health and retirement benefits.

Kelly, the Bruins football head coach and the highest-paid UC employee last year, made $5.7 million in total compensation. Though Kelly’s base salary is $300,000, nearly $5.5 million of his earnings came from various talent fees and bonuses, according to his 2022 employment contract. These payments include $4.5 million for media appearances, a $1 million retention bonus and smaller payments contingent on the team’s season record and players’ academic performance.

Wilcox and Cronin made about $4 million each in compensation, with a substantial amount coming from fee and bonus payments as well.

The highest-paid professor and the fourth most-compensated employee was Jason Roostaeian, a UCLA clinical professor in the plastic surgery department, who made $3.5 million last year. The president of the university system, Michael Drake, earned $992,000 in 2022.

The three head coaches who make over $4 million are among the highest-paid public employees across the state — a circumstance common in other states as well. Their compensation far exceeds the earnings of, for instance, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who is the highest-paid California mayor with a total compensation of $444,000 in 2022. The highest-compensated person employed by the California State University system, the state’s other large university system, was San Diego State University president Adela de la Torre, who made about $710,000 last year.

“Due to the competitive market of the conferences in which the three coaches noted participate in, the amount of compensation is in alignment with comparable peers in the industry,” wrote UC spokesperson Ryan King in an email to the Chronicle.

In fact, relative to coaching salaries at other schools in the country, the compensations of these three coaches are modest. Kelly’s nearly $6 million compensation, for instance, is ranked No. 27 among the salaries of other college football head coaches across the country. The highest pay, according to USA Today, is University of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s $11.4 million.

Kelly’s compensation is expected to grow after a contract extension signed earlier this year outlined a $6.2 million salary by 2025, with UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond citing the team’s improved record under Kelly as a reason for increasing his salary.

UCLA’s football and basketball programs are big business. Last year, the school’s football program made nearly $43 million in revenue from ticket sales, media contracts and sponsorships, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. The Bruins men’s basketball program generated close to $13 million.

Still, the UCLA athletic department reported a $28 million deficit at the end of the 2022 fiscal year and an overall four-year shortfall of $131 million, as revenue remain below pre-pandemic numbers. Coach salaries totaled $22 million across all teams last year, equivalent to roughly a fifth of all UCLA team expenses.

Despite head coaches topping the list of UC salaries, the majority of individuals in the top 1% of earners — those with compensations of over $525,000 — are professors or executive-level administrators like chancellors, deans and vice presidents.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Ontario-Montclair Superintendent Lost $100,000 From a Single Sentence Change in His Contract

James Hammond still made $646,744 last year, partly due to pay raises totaling more than 15%

Ontario-Montclair School District’s superintendent made roughly $100,000 less in 2022 after the school board removed a single sentence from his contract, according to a review of district records.

The amendment eliminated a longstanding provision that allowed Superintendent James Hammond to accrue and then immediately cash out up to 85 sick days annually. In 2021, Hammond was the highest paid superintendent in the state, with a total compensation package, including pay and benefits, just below $750,000.

Of that total, $129,506 came solely from trading in that year’s accrual of sick leave.

Newly obtained records show Hammond’s compensation dropped to $646,744 last year as a result of the amendment unanimously approved by the school board in June. The revision not only removed a sentence allowing him to cash-out sick time, but also capped Hammond’s accrual of sick time at 85 days per year. His contract originally gave him 30 days of sick leave, plus five days for each year of service since his hiring in 2010.

He is still permitted to trade in up to 25 days of vacation, according to his contract.

The district is required to pay Hammond for 444 days of banked sick leave and any amount of unused vacation days upon his exit from the district. He had 556 days of sick time and six vacation days banked as of October 2022. The California State Teachers Retirement System also converts any remaining unused sick leave above 12 days per year into additional service credits upon retirement.

Even with the reduction, Hammond would have still been the highest paid K-12 administrator in California compared to his peers from 2021, according to data compiled by Transparent California.

Compensation breakdown

Hammond’s annual compensation in 2022 included:

  • $447,641 in direct pay, including $39,903 from cashing out his entire vacation accrual for the year.
  • $62,202 in contributions to the California State Teachers Retirement System.
  • $75,150 in deferred compensation.
  • $27,500 for a whole-life insurance policy.
  • $34,251 toward health and wellness.

A Southern California News Group investigation in 2021 first detailed how Hammond used his carefully crafted contract and ever increasing amount of leave to raise his compensation to the top of the charts.

Records show the reduction in the superintendent’s pay last year is almost entirely attributable to the elimination of his sick leave cash-outs. Two salary increases allowed him to offset some of the loss, however.

Hammond’s contract lets him waive an annual cost-of-living increase to instead take any raise provided to the district’s bargaining units. He accepted a 4.76% raise given to California School Employees Association members in April, and then in October received an additional 10.25% raise as a result of the newly approved contracts with CSEA and the Ontario-Montclair Teachers Association, records showed.

15.5% raise in 2022

His salary jumped nearly 15.5% total in the calendar year, going from $26,591 per month in January 2022 to $30,712 a month in October.

The two unions have been generally supportive of the superintendent and endorsed his supporters on the board in the last election. Emails obtained in a public records request indicated the leaders of CSEA and OMTA warned Hammond that a reporter had contacted them to ask about his high pay in 2021.

Hammond is seemingly well-liked in Ontario-Montclair, and the school board has credited him with many of the district’s successes over the past decade, including the passage of a facilities bond in 2016 and reductions in suspensions and expulsions. The district’s academic performance is consistent with state averages in most cases, according to GreatSchools, a nonprofit that rates schools and districts to assist parents. Though OMSD is expected to have a deficit this school year, it has ended the past two years with surpluses, according to a recent annual audit report.

The district, like others in the state, is suffering from declining enrollment. It has lost 1,596 students since 2019, the audit found.

Voters reelected board members

Though some parents criticized Hammond’s high pay at board meetings in response to the Southern California News Group’s investigation, voters were less concerned and overwhelmingly supported all three incumbents in the 2022 election.

Board member Elvia Rivas, while serving as president in 2021, previously defended Hammond’s generous compensation and the sick-leave cash-outs specifically. She explained in an email at the time that Hammond’s pay was structured to provide “financial incentives for him to stay in OMSD and prevent the frequent turnover in the superintendent’s position that occurs in many urban school districts.”

“Dr. Hammond’s continuity of effective leadership has made a huge positive difference in the lives of students and the families we serve,” Rivas wrote.

Minutes of the June 16 meeting, when the board revoked the sick leave cash-outs, did not indicate any discussion by the board. The minutes show Hammond verbally outlined the changes, as required by law, and stated it would decrease the district’s fiscal obligations.

Rivas has not responded to past requests to explain the reasoning for the change. Neither Hammond, nor new board President Sonia Alvarado, a real estate agent who once helped Hammond sell a home the district bought for him, responded to requests for comment.

Click here to read the full article in the SB Sun

S.F.’s Highest-Paid Employee Makes $600K. Here’s What Every City Worker Gets Paid

The government of San Francisco employs tens of thousands of workers across its 50 city and county departments. Last year, full-time S.F. government employees made anywhere between $36,000 and $601,000, with the average at around $127,000, which includes overtime.

That’s according to data provided by the S.F. Controller’s Office on the amount paid to public employees each year. Using this data, The Chronicle analyzed the earnings of those who worked at least 2,080 hours during the 2020-2021 fiscal year — equivalent to a position working 40 hours or more per week between July 2020 and June 2021. This comes out to about 21,000 employees. Because we filtered on actual hours worked, our data does not include full-time workers who, for instance, were out on unpaid leave or started midway through the fiscal year.

The data includes the pay of top officials, like Mayor London Breed ($351,000), Police Chief Bill Scott ($344,000) and former District Attorney Chesa Boudin ($308,000). But it also has information on other public employees. Among them are office clerks, police officers, firefighters, nurses in the public health department and transit operators at the Municipal Transportation Agency. Job titles used in this article are those provided by the Controller’s Office.

The total pay number is made up of three types of earnings — regular or base pay; overtime pay for work exceeding 40 hours per week; and “other” pay which covers irregular payments such as leave pay, premium pay and payouts. It does not include the value of health insurance or retirement benefits, which can be generous in the public sector.

For most employees, the bulk of their pay comes from regular pay. But within the understaffed fire, police and sheriff departments, some employees racked up eye-popping amounts of overtime pay, which at times exceeded their regular wages. Across the three departments, the average person made $27,000 in overtime, and 153 employees collected over $100,000.

In an effort to boost staffing levels and reduce overtime spending in each of the three departments, the budget for the current fiscal year includes increased funding for hiring and retention. The police budget, for instance, went up by $50 million from the previous year, with most of the additional spending for backfilling 220 officer vacancies.

Across the 34 departments with at least 50 employees who worked 2,080 hours last year, the fire department had the highest average pay at $185,000, while the Recreation & Park Department had the lowest average at $96,000.

The Retirement Services and Administrative Services departments have the largest pay differences among its employees. The top earner in each department — Chief Investment Officer in Retirement Services and a medical examiner in Administrative Services — made about $600,000, which is $500,000 more than how much its least-paid employees earned.

The top earner in each department is typically the department head or person leading the office. For example, among the 109 full-time employees in the Mayor’s Office, Breed made the most at $351,000, which is $127,000 more than the next highest-paid staff member.

But in departments with significant overtime, the top earner is often a manager-level employee with unusually large overtime payments. The highest-paid person in the fire department, for instance, is a lieutenant with $154,000 in regular pay and $244,000 in overtime pay for a total of $421,000 — about $43,000 more than Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson’s total ($378,000). In the sheriff’s department, a deputy sheriff’s pay totaled $409,000, about two-thirds of which was overtime pay. That’s $131,000 more than what Sheriff Paul Miyamoto made last year ($278,000).

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle