Sunday, February 1, 2015

More Insane Poo Bah Pay

By Professor Doom

     I’ve often accused the insane student loan scam for the miserable education/poor faculty treatment/awesome administrative pay situation of higher education today, but a recent article forces me to reconsider that belief.

     See, the student loan scam is an American thing; yes, I grant that Canada has something similar going on, but it’s still pretty amazing to see what Poo Bahs get in the great white north:

Annual reports show presidents and vice-presidents at several post-secondary schools across the province are paid more, sometimes much more, than many of their counterparts at top-tier schools and are among the highest paid public officials in Alberta.

      Much like in the United States, administrators in education are the highest paid public officials, by a wide margin…a ridiculously wide margin. Much like in the US, it isn’t just the sky-high salary, either, the Poo Bahs also get generous compensation packages that add 50% or more to already jaw-dropping pay.

     Presidents at those universities received just over $3 million in total compensation.
Outgoing U of A president Indira Samarasekera led the pack with a salary of $544,000 and just over $1.1 million in total compensation last year.

     The article emphasizes the sums of money involved, but there are some other details here. I’ve mentioned before the weird pro-female bias going on in education. My own discipline of mathematics is pretty free with the scholarships students can get just for being a female (substitute “female” for “white male” on any of those scholarships and I bet the outrage from the public would match the burning fury of a thousand suns…). Perhaps I’m paranoid, but the same female-promotion bias seems to hold throughout higher education.

      For what it’s worth, the article focuses on 5 Poo-Bahs. Three of the Poo-Bahs are female, and the top two most highly paid in this highly paid bunch are female (adds up to more than the bottom three, in fact). Eh, it’s a small sample, but this does seem to pop up regularly.

     Bonnie DuPont, board chairwoman at the U of C, said Cannon’s compensation was well-earned, crediting the president and her “exceptional leadership” for advancing the school’s ranking and attracting an “unheard of” $572 million in donations in her first term.

     Hey, I thought public education was service…that’s what I’m always told by a smiling administrator as my pay gets reduced again. Is it a pirate, or a servant, that gets a share of the money grabbed? I concede that’s a lot of money (and I’d love to see the receipts on that, many institutions cook their books), but when you’re shoveling, as the article says, “nearly $12.5 million in total compensation to their presidents and vice-presidents in the 2013-2014 fiscal year”, and a like amount spread amongst legions of functionaries, even $500 million will disappear in a few decades…institutions are supposed to think long term, instead of building and paying out like there’s no tomorrow. 

“You have a situation where an administrator of a university, as complex as the job may be, is making more than the prime minister, President Obama and throw in a couple premiers into the mix,” Lukaszuk said in a recent interview. “Intuitively, you know something is wrong.”

      Yeah, no kidding, it’s pretty obvious something is wrong. A review was promised a couple of years ago, but never materialized. I don’t reckon it ever will; pirates never got audited, either.

In December, the government gave the greenlight for 10 post-secondary schools to hike tuition in 25 professional programs (up to 56 per cent) above provincial legislation that caps increases to the annual rate of inflation.

     Hmmm, massive, gargantuan administrative pay, and regular, huge, tuition hikes. 56% hike in tuition? Yowza. And yet, Canada doesn’t have the American Federal student loan and grand scam…I suspect quite a bit of tax dollars are flowing into the system, just in a different way. I hope the Canadian kids aren’t being screwed into perpetual indebtedness, at least.

     It’s pretty backwards how higher education works. All the money flows in, “for education”, but the only money that goes for education is what the students pay for, and then only a small percentage of that.

David Ross was paid a salary of $340,000 — almost $100,000 more than his predecessor, Irene Lewis — and another $266,000 in cash and non-cash benefits, lifting his total compensation to $606,000 last year.

      This is another thing that’s weird and backwards about higher education. When I go from one institution to the next, I get nothing for my years of service at the previous institution…I have to start over, and my friends that have transferred around say they get the same “deal”. This usually means a pay cut, loss of seniority, and good luck on transferring the retirement benefits—the institution usually justifies this because “the person you’re replacing just retired, and obviously had a lot more experience, so you’re not worth as much.”

     It’s reasonable logic, I suppose. But, for some reason, when a Poo Bah is hired, he gets a pay raise over what was paid to the old Poo Bah. Why is there a double standard here? The new guy coming in at the top obviously is less experienced than the old guy who just deployed his golden parachute (honest, just looking at salaries and bonuses isn’t enough, the retirement packages these guys get would shame the social programs of small countries). 

      Why am I the only one to realize this? Shouldn’t the folks paying these salaries to the Poo Bah also be wondering about the double standard?

      Anyway, it’s pretty clear that the many issues in American higher education can’t all be laid at the feet of the Federal student loan and grant scam. Still, we should just get rid of it. Just to be safe.
      The comments section has an appropriate level of outrage, and one is a standout:

And meanwhile our kids sit in classes of 500? How is that an education?

     This, ultimately, is the key question. If these Poo Bahs actually did anything for education, perhaps the money would make sense. Instead, they’re destroying education, because we need to have huge classes to support them. It’s NOT POSSIBLE to help students in a class of this size, quadruply so when you’re teaching 4 such classes a semester. All you can do is hand out “college credit”…years later, when these students are in the streets holding signs because they don’t know anything, the administrators who robbed them are long gone, and the students won’t even have a clue how they’ve been robbed.

      And yet, that’s what higher education is turning into….huge classes, minimally paid teachers, and massively overpaid administration.

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