Why did our college leaders
give a newly minted millionaire a housing allowance?
NOTE: Those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis recognize that I write affirming posts about student and life success issues. Please pardon me, as I digress this week. While not necessarily an “affirming” post, this topic does affect higher education (and beyond).
My college, Florida State College at Jacksonville, just hired a new president. The hiring was seen by many as a welcomed change. We had just endured the lengthy separation process of the previous college president (with a subsequent high dollar payout and questions of ethics issues). Unfortunately, what transpired during the “expeditious” contract negotiations for the new president continues to raise questions about college leadership decisions.
I want to be clear. This is not about the new president (the person). From all I have read and heard, she is a wonderfully capable administrator. No, this is about the contract the Board of Trustees decided to approve. And, I am not writing this as a faculty member. This comes from the perspective of a taxpaying working-class citizen in our community.
The contract, according to The Florida Times Union, provides the incoming president with an annual salary of $330,000 through 2016 (that is $27,500 per month for a grand total of $990,000 in base salary over three years). Additionally, she will receive a $25,000 per year housing allowance ($75,000 for 3 years) + $12,000 per year car allowance ($36,000 for 3 years). I guess it is difficult to make ends meet on $27,500 per MONTH.
Image: renjith krishnan/
So, the way I read it, the college’s District Board of Trustees extends a contract that virtually makes the new president a millionaire—and gives her additional money to help her make her mortgage payments and pay for gas and oil changes ($1,000 per month to support car expenses). One board member, to her credit, raised concerns about the add-ons.
Why did our college leaders give a newly minted millionaire a housing allowance? Is this an example of “government housing assistance”—the kind we seldom talk about?
Apologists in these situations are quick to fall back on the old canard that we need to pay these candidates to attract the best and brightest; and that the contract is “within the market.” But, who has set that market? The various college Boards of Trustees?
Consider the following:
- The new president currently earns (again, according to The Florida Times Union) $201,000 at her current college. She comes into her first year at FSCJ with a nice pay bump of about 65%.
- According to the 2013-2014 salary index for FSCJ the starting ANNUAL salaries for an Administrative Assistant 1 (office support staff) or an Adviser comes in at $25,704—less than what the new president will earn in base salary each MONTH and about the same as the housing allowance she will receive. An Academic Tutor will pull in the princely sum of $29,160. And a Human Resource Specialist will command (at the starting level) $27, 504.
- According to the poverty guidelines released by the United States government, a family of 4 earning $23,550 ANNUALLY is at the poverty level. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/13poverty.cfm#thresholds. Accessed November 14, 2013.)
So, our new president will be given as much money for her housing allowance as we believe people who are vital to office/support/student success at the college get for an entire year to feed their families, pay a mortgage or rent, and perhaps build a savings plan. If you listen to the board’s audio minutes of November 12, you will hear dialogue about these allowances. Even some of the Board members seemed uneasy with this arrangement. It appears that the allowances were added to the compensation package (in part) to make sure that the base pay does not look egregiously high. The college still pays the same amount—it just looks better to separate some cost from the base salary because no college wants to be “number one” in presidential compensation. There was only one opposition vote on the Board to this contract.
When I asked my students (many of whom are working class members of our community) how much they thought a person would have to earn in the Jacksonville area (without government assistance) to be able to provide his/her family with affordable housing the answers were in the $40,000 to $55,000 per year range. One young woman told the class that she did it on less than $30,000 per year.
Video recommendation for the week:
Florida Governor Rick Scott initiated an investigation (about a year ago) into the level of college president compensation. Were the college governing bodies out of touch with the fiscal realities of the common workers in their respective community markets? Does the new FSCJ Board find itself in the same situation with financial compensation for the people at the top?
What do you think? What represents fair and equitable compensation for college leaders?
I realize I am “just a teacher” but I don’t understand.
Choose well. Live well. Be well—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
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(c) 2013. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.