In 2009, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked University President Mary Sue Coleman the sixth-highest paid public university president in the country. But last week, the University Board of Regents decided that Coleman deserved an even larger paycheck. And while Coleman has done much for campus in the last year — she has a special talent for raising funds — the University has more pressing needs than increasing her paycheck. As she has done in previous years, Coleman should donate the money back to the University for it to allocate for other uses.
According to an Oct. 15 Daily article, the University Board of Regents voted at its Oct. 14 meeting to increase Coleman’s salary by 3 percent, which will come to $16,605. The increase will bring Coleman’s base salary to $570,105. In 2009, Coleman received $230,250 in various bonuses for retention, deferred compensation and retirement pay. As University president, Coleman also has an account for business-related travel expenses, a car and full use of the President’s House. In previous years, Coleman has requested that she not receive a merit-based raise or donated her raises back to the University. She has not yet indicated that she will do so this year.
The need to maintain competitive salaries to create appeal for excellent administrators is understandable. But Coleman already receives a salary that exceeds nearly every other public University president in the country — it seems unlikely that money will drive her to another university, or that a similar salary would deter any potential administrators from the University. Other recent pay increases that University administrators — specifically Philip Hanlon, the University’s new provost, who received a 28-percent pay increase over his predecessor Teresa Sullivan this summer — have also far exceeded what’s necessary to draw administrators to Ann Arbor.
Coleman has been successful at raising private funds for the University. The Michigan Difference campaign that she spearheaded raised about $3 billion between 2000 and 2008. But despite her accomplishments, the regents shouldn’t feel obligated to give Coleman yearly raises. For one, Coleman certainly isn’t hurting for cash. Since the 2005-2006 academic year, Coleman’s salary has grown by about $60,000, including this year’s 3-pecent raise. Her current University salary and other forms of compensation are still impressive and she makes additional income by serving on the board of directors for Johnson & Johnson and Meredith Corporation. And Coleman’s salary comes from the general fund, which took a hit this year when the Michigan legislature decreased its funding to public universities — and one way that the University dealt with the cut was to raise tuition yet again.
There are more important areas to which the University should direct its money — namely, financial aid. As tuition continues to inflate, a University education seems more unlikely for many students from low-income families. Instead of increasing administrator salaries, the University should apportion more funding for financial aid. Coleman’s $16,605 salary increase alone could fund a full tuition scholarship for an in-state undergraduate student with plenty left over.
The University should be more concerned with helping students in need of aid than padding its top administrators’ paychecks. Coleman should donate her salary increase back to the University to set an example and use the money to deal with more pressing matters.