Americans committed to better living for bosses can take heart at the fact that college and university administrators — unlike their faculty (increasingly reduced to rootless and benefitless adjuncts) and students (saddled with ever more debt) — are thriving.
In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, 42 private college and university presidents received more than a million dollars each for their work. Robert Zimmer (University of Chicago) was the best paid, at $3,358,723. At public colleges and universities, nine top administrators garnered more than $1 million each in 2012-13, with the best paid, E. Gordon Gee (Ohio State University), receiving $6,057,615.
Since then, it’s likely that the number of millionaire campus presidents has increased, for their numbers have been growing rapidly. In 2012-13, the number of public university presidents receiving at least $1 million for their services more than doubled over the previous year.
In addition to their formal compensation, college and university presidents receive some very lavish perks. These include not only free luxury cars and country club memberships, but free elite university housing. James Milliken, the chancellor of the City University of New York, attended by some of the nation’s most impoverished students, lives rent-free in an $18,000-a-month luxury apartment on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side. From 2000-07, when Gee was chancellor at Vanderbilt University, he benefited from a $6 million renovation of the university mansion in which he and his wife resided. According to a New York Times article, after Gee moved on to his multimillion-dollar job at Ohio State, he was known for “the lavish lifestyle his job supports, including a rent-free mansion with an elevator, a pool and a tennis court, and flights on private jets.”
The soaring incomes of campus administrators are paralleled by their soaring numbers.
Between 1993 and 2009, their numbers reportedly increased 60 percent, to 230,000 — 10 times the rate of growth of the faculty. According to a February 2014 report by the American Institutes for Research, between 1987 and 2012 the number of administrators at private universities doubled, while their numbers in central university system offices rose by a factor of 34.
Not surprisingly, the soaring income and numbers of administrators have led to their consuming an increasing share of the campus budget.
Their rapidly rising income reflects, in part, the fact that the boards of trustees of most higher educational institutions are dominated by businessmen, who, naturally, are accustomed to the outlandish incomes and perks of the corporate world.
In addition, as boards of trustees are often less concerned about education than about money, they are dazzled by administrators who rake in large financial contributions. Against the backdrop of drastically-reduced public funding for universities, attracting donations from the wealthy and their corporations — plus, of course, raising tuition and reducing faculty salaries — is considered particularly desirable behavior in a modern university administrator.
The extraordinary growth in the number of administrators can be explained partially by the fact that bureaucrats tend to multiply.
Thus, a top administrator, such as the campus president, likes to have subordinate administrators doing his or her work.
In turn, the subordinates like to have additional administrators working for them.
Another reason for administrative bloat is that, although the number of faculty is strictly regulated by the administration, there is no one regulating the number of administrators, except the college or university president.
Whatever the plight of faculty and students, these are boom times for campus administrators.
Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is professor of history emeritus at SUNY/Albany.