In UM system, more administrators, higher pay

Salaries up 41% in 5 years

funds tight, but jobs added

April 02, 2003|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

As state budget problems have forced tuition increases and layoffs at Maryland's public universities, one area of campus spending remains relatively unscathed: the burgeoning ranks of highly paid administrators.

The salaries of the 30 top officials at three state universities have gone up by 41 percent since 1998 - an average raise of $68,000 per person - a review by The Sun has found.

At the University of Maryland, College Park alone, about 35 administrators earn $120,000 or more.

As top salaries have shot up, the size of the university administrations also has grown. More than a dozen well-paid positions have been created in the past five years, often via upgrades of lower jobs.

Where the University of Maryland, Baltimore had four vice presidents in 1998, it now has six. College Park has added two vice presidents, an associate provost and an assistant vice president. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has added an associate vice president, two assistant vice presidents and a vice provost.

Campus officials say the added administrative positions are needed to handle responsibilities that have grown in importance, such as information technology, research funding and private fund-raising. The large pay increases for some existing positions, they said, helped recruit or retain talented administrators to guide the universities' recent rise in reputation.

In addition, they noted, the salaries of higher education officials have increased across the country, not just in Maryland.

"In order to recruit qualified people, you have to pay competitive salaries. There is a market for people at a certain level," said UM College Park President C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr.

But others question the sharp increase in administrative costs, saying it has drained resources from faculty, students and lower-level staff and was partly responsible for a steady rise in tuition.

Between 1998 and 2002, taxpayer funding for Maryland's colleges grew about 12 percent a year - the highest rate in the country. Despite that support, tuition and fee increases ranged from 15 percent to 23 percent at College Park, UMBC and UMB at that time.

Frank A. Schmidtlein, professor emeritus of higher education policy at UM College Park, said some of the administrative growth is caused by new federal and state regulations placed on colleges. But many of the bureaucratic costs may be avoidable, he said.

"It's important for colleges and universities at times like this to take a look at how many people they need, and whether the function they're performing is critical to the purpose of the university," he said.

The rising cost of university bureaucracies is separate from the growth in the two overlapping agencies that oversee all Maryland colleges costs, The Sun detailed in January.

With the state's budget crisis forcing a $67 million cut for the University System of Maryland this year, most administrative salaries have stayed flat since last year, some vacancies are being left unfilled, and top officials are sharing in furloughs.

But beyond that, colleges have done little to reverse the growth in their top ranks now that the generous state funding that made the pay raises possible has run dry. Instead, they have turned to a rare midyear tuition increase and layoffs of staff and faculty, saying they have nowhere else to trim.

"We've seen a very sharp paring back in administrative expenditures because of the times," System Chancellor William E. Kirwan said last night, arguing against an additional $36 million cut to higher education being weighed by lawmakers. Kirwan earns $375,000, 44 percent more than the position paid in 1998.

Some staff, faculty and students reject the claim that furloughs, layoffs and tuition increases are needed when top administrators are still enjoying the fruits of the boom.

"There's a feeling of betrayal that layoffs would even be considered when this excessive wealth exists," said Sally Davies, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees chapter that represents about 3,000 UM College Park workers.

Brandon DeFrehn, president of the UM College Park Student Government Association, called the administrative salaries "excessive" at a time of campus cutbacks. "For at least the next few years, I hope each of these people would not get an increase," said DeFrehn, a senior from Germantown.

Sharply higher administrative costs were found at most of the state's public colleges. At Bowie State University, the three assistants to the president together earn 62 percent more than the positions paid in 1998.

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