In recent months, Democrats seem more upset than ever about the level of student debt, with President Obama leading the charge to loan forgiveness. But as tuition continues to rise for state students in a still struggling economy, why has nothing been done to limit massive salaries paid to state college administrators, many near the million-dollar mark, while students struggle to pay skyrocketing fees?
Constantly up in arms over the greed of wealthy conservatives, liberals seem to maintain a blissful ignorance toward millionaires who help to push their own political agenda, such as college administrators. But limiting the salaries of these academic fat cats could help to ease the financial burden on the schools and the students.
According to the salary database of the Ohio State University, for example, former President E. Gordon Gee “earned” a whopping, $859,566 in 2013. And that’s only the cash salary; this figure doesn’t include any sort of benefits or bonuses. You could easily surmise that his nearest underlings earn somewhere close to that, at least in the middle six figures.
What could a state employed “figurehead” possibly do to be worth that kind of money? After all, it’s OSU, not Harvard. That’s simply ridiculous, no matter how many letters are stacked up after his name.
Universities aren’t alone in this outrageous salary model, however. According to a December 2015 report by the Dayton Business Journal, Sinclair Community College President Steven Johnson now earns a base salary – without benefits – of $371,454.
Why are the taxpayers shelling out nearly a half-million dollars for a community college president? Keep in mind that these people are not teachers and most high-level administrators continue to receive raises and bonuses even when the schools are making budget cuts everywhere else.
Still, while it could help lower tuition slightly, even if the salaries are cut back in top-heavy administrations, it wouldn’t do much to help people actually pay for school. College students need to take on some of the responsibility to limit their own debt, in ways that no one wants to talk about because they’re politically incorrect.
First, here’s a thought just way out of left field – get a job. Most of the people I went to college with were not from wealthy families and many of the loans we’re talking about today didn’t exist three decades ago. So, they did what I did, applied for every grant and scholarship available and worked as many as three, part-time jobs to help cover the costs. Some did take out small loans, a semester or two at a time, and paid them back as they went.
It’s hard to figure out when “work” became such a bad word. A student who works while in school gains a better sense of responsibility, learns how to handle money more efficiently and is more self-sufficient. That also makes them less likely to return home after they graduate because they aren’t afraid to take jobs to make ends meet while looking for their career spot.
Another major sticking point of the American university mentality is that you have to finish your degree in no more than four years. Those who don’t hit the mark may end up at the bottom of the placement pile, labeled as disengaged or unmotivated, and that’s just ridiculous.
Common sense suggests that if it takes longer and the student works during their higher education years, future employers will benefit from applicants with more real-world experience and the worker is more likely to excel faster and make more money.
The simple fact remains that the American economy is still wounded, and all of the handouts in the world won’t change that. Students today would be far better off to work while going to school. If that means they don’t get done in four years, so be it. In adult life, you don’t always have it easy and you need to take responsibility for yourself.
Loan forgiveness is treating the symptom, not the disease. With the foregone conclusion that they’ll never have to pay back a student loan, there is simply no incentive for people to try to stay out of that debt in the first place.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at gerydeer.com.