January 18, 2010

Tuition freeze didn’t curtail hiring, six-figure salaries at universities

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

The end to the three-year tuition freeze at state colleges and universities announced by Gov. Martin O’Malley last week was hardly a surprise.

Higher education has been a real growth area of state government in the last three years under O’Malley. It grew even under Gov. Robert Ehrlich, despite significant cuts to the university budgets, leading to tuition hikes that were politically damaging.

In the last three years, employment in state-run higher education has gone up by 2,800 people, or 7.8 percent, while only about 200 jobs were added to the rest of state government. That amounts to a measly .3 percent, according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report issued by the Comptroller’s Office last month. (Most of the jobs “cut” in the last three years have been vacant positions.)

The employment increase at four-year colleges and universities is just as dramatic going back six years. Since 2004, 4,588 jobs were added, a 13 percent hike that brought employment close to 39,000. In the rest of state government — the part that runs the roads, prisons, health care and social services — the state added 715 jobs in that time, a 1 percent increase to 62,558.

Enrollment at the colleges and universities was rising as well during the past six years, according to university system figures supplied to the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Full-time undergraduate enrollment in the university system was up 13 percent to 75,500. Total overall enrollment, including graduate and part-time students, rose 15 percent to 148,676.

The rising enrollment would certainly seem to justify the rising employment, although the number of people being served by the non-education government departments was rising as well.

The tuition freeze at the universities has not curtailed salaries for the top faculty and administrators at these institutions.

As I reported in a story for the defunct Baltimore Examiner two years ago, three quarters of the state employees making six-figure salaries work at the universities, according to figures supplied by the Comptroller’s Office under a Public Information Act request. Click here for the full list from 2009.

(Joe Shapiro, communications director for Comptroller Peter Franchot gets a shout-out for the most rapid response to a PIA I’ve ever experienced. By e-mail, I got the Excel spreadsheet with the information I requested in just 10 minutes – mainly because the office had just supplied Alan Suderman at the Washington Examiner with same data. Suderman did a story a week ago.)

All told, 5,200 state employees make more than $100,000 per year in base pay, a figure 10 percent higher than two years ago. But 3,900 of those employees work at the four-year colleges and universities. That means that only 2 percent of the employees in general state government get six figures, while 10 percent at the universities do.

The salaries pulled down by university presidents, vice presidents and deans may be competitive in the elite world of academia. David Ramsay, retiring president at the University of Maryland Baltimore professional schools, earns $589,000, Dan Mote at the University of Maryland College Park makes $464,600, and Freeman Hrabowski at UMBC gets $420,000. The new dean at the journalism school at College Park, Kevin Klose, pulls down $260,000 — $40,000 more than his predecessor two years ago.

A new survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education shows Maryland salaries are in the middle of the pack, compared to other states, Childs Walker reports in Monday’s Baltimore Sun.

But the salaries certainly seem out of line compared to the cabinet secretaries with significant and important responsibilities. Public Safety Secretary Gary Maynard is given $162,000 to oversee 22,000 inmates in prison and 70,000 former inmates on parole and probation. Health Secretary John Colmers got the same amount heading an $8 billion department with wide-ranging duties for public health

Why do they make less than two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists at UMCP – Haynes Johnson and Gene Roberts – for teaching three or four classes, and bringing their prestige to the institution? Johnson made $165,000 and Roberts $163,000.

Life is unfair, and so is the pay structure for well-compensated state employees.