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California College Board Raises Pay Rate While Boosting Tuition

Jerry Brown, governor of California. Photographer: Ken James/Bloomberg
Jerry Brown, governor of California. Photographer: Ken James/Bloomberg

July 13 (Bloomberg) -- California State University trustees went ahead with paying their San Diego campus president $400,000 a year, shrugging off Governor Jerry Brown’s call for reining in spiraling compensation, and boosted tuition 12 percent.

The governor, 73, asked Herbert Carter, the trustees chairman, to “rethink” management salaries, in an open letter dated yesterday. Brown cited “my concern about the ever-escalating pay packages awarded to your top administrators.”

The board voted yesterday to approve the compensation for Elliot Hirshman, 50, who was named president of San Diego State University on May 9, according to Mike Uhlenkamp, a university system spokesman. Hirshman’s pay tops his predecessor’s by $100,000, an increase Brown questioned. The board boosted tuition 12 percent in a system that serves 412,000 students.

“At a time when the state is closing its courts, laying off public school teachers and shutting senior centers, it is not right to be raising the salaries of leaders who -- of necessity -- must demand sacrifice from everyone else,” Brown said in the letter to Carter. The system has 23 campuses and about 43,000 faculty and other employees.

The state’s budget for fiscal 2012, which started July 1, included a $1.36 billion, or 11.7 percent, reduction in general-fund spending for higher education, to about $10.2 billion.

Rising Student Costs

The board voted 13-2 to raise tuition to about $5,500 a year for undergraduates, Uhlenkamp said. Trustees boosted the cost in November as well, with a 10 percent increase set to take effect in September.

University of California regents, who are set to consider raising tuition by 10.5 percent in a meeting tomorrow, were urged not to take that step by the system’s student association.

Hirshman, a former University of Maryland, Baltimore County, provost and psychology professor, has already begun his job at San Diego State. His pay was approved 12-3 by the board.

“He’s mindful of the governor’s letter and appreciates the interest and concern,” Uhlenkamp said of Carter. He said the chairman felt the best course was to “move forward” with Hirshman’s pay package “at the recommended level.”

Citing “the salary decision you are about to make,” Brown said he rejects the assumption “that you cannot find a qualified man or woman to lead the university unless paid twice that of the Chief Justice of the United States.”

During the discussion of Hirshman’s pay package, one trustee noted that the state pays some prison guards more than $200,000 a year.

Paying for Quality

“We’re looking at a president who runs a multimillion dollar organization,” said Peter Mehas, the trustee. “We cannot pay enough for quality leadership,” he said.

The state Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro issued a statement critical of Brown, pointing to an arrangement approved by the governor that pays the state’s Social Services director more than $343,000 a year.

“Governor Brown has reached the height of hypocrisy in his scolding” of the trustees, Del Beccaro said in a statement. “If anyone has set an unaffordable pattern for public service compensation, it’s Jerry Brown.”

Carter recommended and the trustees approved the formation of a panel to review selection and pay for future campus presidents, Uhlenkamp said. A study of the system by Mercer LLC, a consulting arm of Marsh & McLennan Cos., said the system’s presidents were paid an average of about $292,800 compared with $425,900 at 20 rival schools, five of them private.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at

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