Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Community College Presidents: How Much Salary Is Too Much?

I didn't have space in my column today to include some comments by John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors. I'd called to ask him whether the $274,000 salary of Stephen Curtis (no relation, I presume ...), president of Community College of Philadelphia, was out of whack with what other community-college presidents earn.

Community College Presidents: How Much Salary Is Too Much?

I didn't have space in my column today to include some comments by John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors.  I'd called to ask him whether the $274,000 salary of Stephen Curtis (no relation, I presume ...), president of Community College of Philadelphia, was out of whack with what other community-college presidents earn.

I asked because AFT Local 2026, which represents faculty and some blue- and white-collar staffers at CCP, have made the point that Curtis makes more than Mayor Nutter ($170,935) and Gov. Corbett ($174,900) earn.

Researcher John Curtis said that, according to a recent survey conducted by his organization, the compensation of public community-college presidents range from $81,000 to $390,000, not including extra benefits for housing and car expenses.  The size of the salary is influenced by the size of the school, its location and the number of its students and employees.

The $274,000 earned by CCP's President Curtis includes about $35,000 in car and housing stipends, so his base salary is about $240,000. Given the school's size (37,000 students and 2,000 staff) and Curtis' tenure at CCP (13 years), his compensation appears to fall slightly above the mid-level of what public community-college presidents earn natiowide.

The AAUP's Curtis (too many Curtises here!) pointed out that , nationwide, college administrator's salaries rise at a faster rate than do the salaries of faculty.

"Even during recession, administrators still saw more frequent pay increases then their faculty did," he said.  

"Usually, the justification given is that the president is the CEO of a multi-faceted organization and that the jobs gets more complex as the organization gets larger. The problem with that, from a philosophical perspective, is that colleges have had a long tradition of shared governance.

"The administration, faculty, students and members of the community have shared in the decision-making, working in a collaborative way to determine priorities, the nature of the institution and how resources will be allocated.   

"This new idea that the coollege president is like a CEO is a much more corporate and managerial approach to decision-making. It tends to centralize authority in one  individual. That's a change from the traditional."

He sees this as problematic because we've created a separate management track for administration, in colleges where faculty members used to take on administrative roles for a few years - becoming "scholar administrators" who were focused on the core mission of academics: teaching and research, the core of what college is supposed to be all about.

"But we have now the emergence of this managerial class, more concerned with their own careers, who will be instituting programs or vanity projects that are, in many cases, about making a big splash. And that's not what is best for the college or the community."

"So it becomes a question of priorities. Do we pay top dollar to a handful of senior administrators? Or do we invest it in the academic mission of the college?"

Lots to chew on, obviously. I'd be interested to hear everyone's thoughts.  

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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