Opinion: Are we investing in education or administrative salaries?
By Shelby Surdyk
Special to The Sun Star
In spite of an economic recession, program and budget cuts, and increasing tuition fees, the salaries of University of Alaska’s top administrators continue to bloat. Having only been named permanent chancellor in May 2009, UAF’s Brian Rogers already receives a salary double that of the governor of Alaska. As reported by the recently released state of Alaska “Compensation and Travel Report of Executive Positions for 2009,” Rogers currently makes $272, 811. This price tag does not include a state-funded vehicle, housing, or compensation such as leave cash-in, travel or relocation expenses. This may come as a shock to many students, including myself, who are taking out loans for the sake of higher education. As our stomachs tie themselves into knots at the thought of rising tuition, we may be led to ask the question: Is this executive compensation a fiscally responsible investment?
Consider the many economic burdens UAF faces in the near future. To support residential student life, UAF needs renovation. Students living in the MBS complex are intimately familiar with some of the aging buildings on campus (some of which are insulated with asbestos), which require extensive renovation and construction investments. Another pressing issue is the coal power plant on campus. Within the next few years, the university will need to replace the campus power generator which has already reached its intended life-span. These are not insignificant projects. Where will the money come from to fund them?
The UA Board of Regents assigns executive salaries based on national market trends. Nationwide students are acquiring ever-larger amounts of debt to pay for declining services. As more and more students are being forced into default, national trends show investments for highly qualified faculty members, research opportunities, and scholarship investments are suffering. The UA system is no exception. At UAS, many students cannot graduate in four years because of the lack of faculty to teach classes. If the UA Board of Regents chooses to ignore these trends, what does this say about our education priorities?
It is becoming difficult not to believe that public education is little more than a business scam. As demonstrated in the[UAA professor] Rick Steiner fiasco earlier this year, our university is no longer a free marketplace of ideas in which critical thought and research are valued. It is time students question and challenge the economics of our education.