No one was surprised when the University increased tuition again this year, as it has done for decades. Thanks to a decrease in spending, though, the hike was relatively small in comparison to past years. But the University could have increased tuition by an even smaller rate — or perhaps not at all — if it hadn’t committed itself to giving bloated, sky-high pay raises to its administration. Phil Hanlon, the University’s new provost, followed this trend with a 28 percent pay increase over his predecessor. If the administration wants to get serious on containing spending, it should look seriously at how much they are costing the University.

This January, former Provost Teresa Sullivan announced her resignation after she was offered a position as the president at the University of Virginia. Philip Hanlon, formerly the University’s vice provost, was hired to replace Sullivan in February. But the details of his contract, including his salary, have only recently become available. According to the terms of Hanlon’s contract, he will receive a yearly salary of $470,000, a 28 percent increase over Sullivan’s salary of $366,000.

Competitive pay packages are necessary to draw the best administrators and faculty members to Ann Arbor. And when their deferred compensation Sullivan forfeited by leaving the University is taken into account, the difference between her total package and Hanlon’s is not as great. But the sheer size of his compensation renders the “competitive pay” argument moot. In fact, Hanlon will now be making more than the presidents of the University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame did in 2009.

The University has a responsibility as a public institution to its students to ensure that higher education is financially accessible. The funding for administrator salaries comes from general revenues — of which tuition is a principal component — and students simply can’t afford to foot the bill for administrators’ pay raises. The recession and decreased state support mean that students are bearing a heavier burden, and financial aid has not increased sufficiently to counter these costs for everyone. The $104,000 difference between Sullivan’s and Hanlon’s salaries could pay for the University’s estimated full cost of attendance (tuition, housing, supplies, etc.) for four in-state freshmen and still have money left over. The University has decided that administrator salaries come before the education of four Wolverines.

Hanlon’s pay raise is especially concerning considering the influence the provost has on the University’s yearly budget. One of Sullivan’s greatest strengths was decreasing spending in an effort to keep tuition increases low. Perhaps the most important part of Hanlon’s job will be to follow Sullivan’s lead in cutting costs. In a disturbing twist of irony, the man responsible for formulating a responsible budget has accepted an irresponsible pay increase.

The University has a choice: pad the wallets of its top officials or make the sacrifices necessary to keep higher education accessible to everyone. Hanlon’s pay raise paints a disappointing picture of where the administration’s priorities lie.

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