Wednesday, September 28, 2011

University Of Alaska Regents Under Fire For Dishing Out 8.5 Percent Pay Raise To UA President Pat Gamble Only Nine Months After Increasing Tuition By 7 Percent

Update October 4th: Pat Gamble says he will donate his entire 8.5 percent pay raise to fund student scholarships. This is a salutary act by Gamble, but the onus remains on the regents for approving the raise in the first place.

The education bubble in Alaska was inflated further on September 23rd, 2011, when the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted 10-1 to grant UA President Pat Gamble an 8.5 percent pay hike from $295,000 to $320,000 only nine months after they voted to increase tuition rates by seven percent beginning in 2012-13. The total package includes a university-provided house in Fairbanks and a $9,600-a-year vehicle allowance. And now the regents are taking heat because of the decision, particularly in public comments to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Juneau Empire and the Anchorage Daily News.

The regents are now defending that decision. Fuller Cowell, the chairman of the Board of Regents, played the comparison and competition cards, claiming that they wanted to get Gamble's salary "closer to normal". Their benchmark of "normal" is a recent college executive pay survey which revealed the median pay for university presidents to be $418,300. Cowell further stated that when Gamble signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $295,000 in 2010, it was intentionally set below the consultant’s recommended range during a probationary year. The Juneau Empire reports that that even with the raise, Gamble’s salary is still about 10 percent below the median pay of public, multi-campus university presidents.

Too bad the "closer to normal" argument was soft-pedaled when the regents voted to increase tuition for undergraduates by seven percent and for graduate students by three percent in December 2010. The UA system’s in-state graduate tuition rates already ranked among the most expensive out of 15 public institutions in the West, although they were more competitive nationally. Tuition rates have doubled for UA students since 2001, and an undergraduate taking a typical course load now pays $4,755 per year in tuition, which doesn't include additional expenses such as books, lodging and food.

The lone dissenting regent, Ken Fisher, explained that he believes Gamble was already being paid a fair salary and that public service positions should be judged by more than just financial compensation. He noted that Governor Sean Parnell earns less than half as much as the UA president, and stresses that his opposition to the pay hike is is not a reflection upon Gamble's performance. In January 2011, Gov. Parnell rejected a proposed 40 percent pay raise and settled for a more modest 16 percent hike; in 2009, then-Governor Sarah Palin rejected a proposed pay raise altogether.

The burden should not necessarily be upon Pat Gamble to reduce or reject the proposed pay raise; how many of us would do that? Instead, our ire should be directed at the regents who fail to consider how these windfall pay raises inflate the education bubble and perpetuate the cycle of inflation. First, they hiked tuition in 2010, inflating the education bubble. Now, they've hiked Gamble's salary, further inflating the bubble. Will the regents decided in a couple of years that they need to hike tuition AGAIN to pay for this increase? This reflects the influence of prosperity theology upon the elite, in which they believe in superstar compensation for the rich and powerful at the expense of the rank-and-file; this has produced CEO-to-worker salary ratios of up to 300-1 in the private sector.

Public comments to the various media stories are universally condemnatory; here's a small sample:

ggcrackers | 09/25/11 - 07:23 am (Juneau Empire):
mis-managing other people's money. Who gives a rip if he is below the median of university president salaries? Alaska is below the median in lots of areas.

A paid for house, $9,600 a year for a car, and now over 300-grand in salary. Pity the poor college student paying through the nose for this guy's half-a-mill a year lifestyle.

He gets about three times as much as the governor--and will do so no matter who the gov is.

The Board of Regents should be fired.

Calypso | 09/25/11 - 12:43 pm (Juneau Empire):
Here's a link to the meeting that was held on 9/22-23/11 in Juneau. I didn't see any mention of discussing a pay raise for the university president, as they atleast admitted.

Is it legal? The Board is supposed to post an agenda for the meetings and allow a sign up period ahead of time for citizens to comment.

Although the regents are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature, are they only accountable to themselves after that? There are supposed to be 11 of them but I see only 9 voted.

They receive no compensation except travel expenses, etc.

A little too much power in my opinion. Many states have elections for their regents and the public votes.

Could it be that Alaska gives too much power to its elected officials and not enough voice to the citizens? There are more opportunities for corruption when too few people have more than enough power.

idewhatiwant wrote on Wednesday, Sep 28 at 12:47 AM (News-Miner):
That one raise is more than I make in a year. Plus I have to pay for it now. Thank you so much for continuing to raise tuition for one other lower turn out rates in the country. Our department has a computer lab with 20 computers, only 15 work, maybe you could spend that 8.5% raise on 25% of our computers and fix 100% of our broken computers. and still probably end up with 66% of the 8.5% raise. This is what's wrong with America. Not saying that I want him to spread the wealth, but needless raises year after year. Man oh jeeze. For what is he getting a raise? I see no improvements in the university. Been a student a few years now, nothing has changed, except tuition and teachers/presidents/regents salary.

ArcticWriter wrote on Wednesday, Sep 28 at 05:33 AM (News-Miner):
His bonus is twice the annual salary of many staff workers. Where is staff's 8.5% raise? UAF staff bust their butts for students and faculty. All staff got this year was a piddly raise that was totally wiped out several times over by a gigantic multi-thousand dollar annual increase in health insurance costs.

Closer September 24th (Anchorage Daily News):
"The university (system) employs roughly 7,000..."
"...nearly 33,000 full- and part-time students are enrolled..."

"...Gamble's annual salary to just above $320,000."

- - - - -

"...overseeing 6,500 regular employees who serve 49,000 students."

"Her (Carol Comeau) annual salary since 2009 has been $165,000."

- - - - -

# University System employees < # ASD employees # University System student enrollment < # ASD student enrollment $ Gamble's annual salary > $ Comeau's annual salary almost x 2

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