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Cal State Presidents To See At Least 7% Salary Increase

A student wearing a mask holds an item from his bag while standing at a table.
California State University Northridge in Los Angeles.
(Julie Leopo
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California State University presidents and executives will see at least a 7% salary increase starting this month.

The CSU Board of Trustees voted Wednesday for the salary increase following a study last year that found executives in the nation’s largest public university system were underpaid when compared to similar institutions across the country. The board voted in September to increase the salaries by no more than 10%.

“Our presidents are grossly out of the marketplace in terms of their compensation,” Trustee Jack McGrory said, adding that the comparison study performed last year may have underestimated how much Cal State presidents are underpaid. Other universities across the country pay their presidents somewhere between $750,000 and $1 million, he said.

“We’re willing to pay our football coaches $1 million but for some reason, we don’t want to pay our presidents to be in the marketplace,” McGrory said. “I know people in Sacramento and around the state are probably going to criticize what we’re doing here today, but we owe it to this system. We think we’re the best national public university in America. We need to act that way.”

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The 7% increase would be the highest pay raise CSU executives have seen in 12 years. The last salary increase was 3% in 2019, according to the chancellor’s office.

The board also voted that 14 CSU presidents would receive equity adjustments based on their performance reviews to increase their salaries to make them comparable to other universities.

The California Faculty Association, which is the union representing CSU faculty and instructional staff, strongly criticized the increases.

“Today’s action by CSU Trustees to increase wages for the system’s highest paid executives and campus presidents is shameful,” CFA President Charles Toombs said. “Despite messaging around equity, parity, and fairness, Trustees did the opposite. They continue systemic inequality while doing little to restore trust in a university system unable or unwilling to protect students, faculty, and staff from sexual harassment.”

Toombs, who is referring to a series of sexual harassment controversies that led former Chancellor Joseph Castro to resign, said the decision to award executives thousands of dollars more was “reprehensible and a systemic injustice.”

“An organization’s spending reflects its priorities,” he said. “Increasing already excessive pay for its highest paid executives while providing meager salary increases to the people providing direct instruction and services to students is not equity.”

CSU Trustee Douglas Faigan said he agreed with the salary increases, but criticized the chancellor’s office for not publicly providing the details in a timely manner. The board’s agenda, which was posted last week, had one line that said the board would take action on executive compensation. The full details of the salary increases were not posted until Tuesday evening, he said.

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“While the (agenda item) meets the letter of the law on disclosure, it does not meet the spirit of the law on transparency,” Faigan said.

The board faced criticism last year from faculty and staff groups for increasing executive compensation, especially when staff salary studies have shown other employees across the system are underpaid.

A study released in May recommended the CSU create a salary step structure for its more than 30,000 non-faculty staff, create new pay ranges that adjust wages to the market median and increase salaries by 3.05%. That recommendation would require $287 million to implement with costs in the tens of millions of dollars per year to annually maintain.

Some board members expressed that they want to do all they can to make sure funding is available to improve staff and faculty salaries. The CSU has been lobbying the Legislature to fund staff and faculty salaries.

“The equity issues we face are across the board,” Trustee Julia Lopez said, adding that she personally wants to make implementing the recommendations of the staff and, upcoming faculty, salary studies a priority.

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