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College presidents far outearn CEOs

The salaries of so-called greedy CEOs have been a big talking point for both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton this election season. Both Democratic candidates for president have also bemoaned the prohibitive cost of college. Seemingly unapparent to both Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Sanders, however, is the absolute irony of their complaints.

Sen. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton and many others who complain about both CEO pay and the prohibitive cost of college also tend to say absolutely nothing about how much administrative bloat — and, in this case, bloat at the top of the university ladder — contributes to the cost of college.

As Amy Picchi reported for CBS News’ MoneyWatch, according to new research by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, college presidents are in the 99th percentile of American wage earners, taking home on average $377,261 annually, more than twice the average pay of $176,840 for CEOs. (UNLV President Len Jessup’s salary is $525,000). And many college athletic coaches make even more than their schools’ presidents.

The addition of layers and layers of administrative departments, often to pay homage to all manner of diversity — except diversity of thought, of course, unless that thought tows the politically correct line — costs a ridiculous amount of money. And paying presidents and other administrators to oversee such an overexpansive fiefdom comes with a hefty price tag, too.

A 2014 study by the Institute for Policy Studies — not exactly a mouthpiece for conservatism — showed that graduates of the 25 state universities with the highest-paid presidents typically left school with more debt than average state university graduates. Administrative spending outpaced scholarship spending by more than 2-to-1 at these schools, with average executive pay at these universities rising to nearly $1 million in 2012 — an increase of more than twice the national average at public research universities. The study also found that, in addition to reducing scholarship spending, these schools also tend to steer away from hiring full-time professors in favor of low-paid faculty labor such as adjuncts.

As the study points out, 30 years ago, “America’s state universities were affordable and accessible, university presidents were more like educational leaders than CEOs, permanent faculty made up 70 percent of all instructional staff, and students rarely went into debt at all.”

Oh, how times have changed.

Tuition continues to skyrocket, university administrators are paid disproportionate to their counterparts outside of academia, underpaid (and overworked) adjuncts are increasingly replacing full-time faculty, and students are graduating with mountains of debt. If left unchecked, this system will only continue to get worse.

CEOs draw pay commensurate to a company’s success, and that success depends on that company’s efficiency, as well as its ability to provide a product or service worth the price to obtain. Those barking about CEO pay while also lamenting the cost of higher education would be better served turning their attention to those whopping salaries of college presidents and their army of administrators.

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