U of I's 1-percent president not alone

February 9, 2012 7:32:59 AM PST
When President Obama warned American universities last month that they needed to cut costs so families could afford tuition, the I-Team began looking into the top administrator's salaries at Illinois' cornerstone college, the University of Illinois. What we found in their contracts is outrageous, say the critics, totally justified, according to the U. of I., and very typical compared to their colleagues.

Michael Hogan is the new president of the University of Illinois. His salary is 50 percent higher than the president of the United States.

Phyllis Wise, the new chancellor at Illinois' main campus, is paid almost three times as much as the governor of Illinois.

"They get paid good money, but they work hard for it," said Thomas Hardy, University Of Illinois spokesman. "These are 24/7 jobs ... they make what the market pays for these positions. They are paid the same essentially as president and chancellor at comparable institutions across the country."

"More and more university presidents say we are like a business, we are like corporations and therefore we need to be paid the kind of money or close to the kind of money that the for profit private sector earns," said Dr. Richard Vedder, Center for College Affordability.

President Hogan's contract obtained under the freedom of information act, reveals numerous perks of the position. At U. of I., Hogan is provided with a campus home where he lives, and the staff that runs it, paid memberships here at the private Champaign Country Club and the Chicago club, billed as the exclusive "gem" of Michigan Avenue.

"I think these kinds of club memberships are standard operating procedures for CEOs both in private and non-for-profit sectors," said Hardy.

President Hogan's contracts also requires a car and driver, perhaps for trips to Chicago's Gold Coast where he stays in a $1.6 million condominium that is also provided under his contract.

"I think a car and driver is a no brainer. This is a big state, we have three campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago adn Springfield, we have satellite campuses in Rockford and Peoria," said Hardy.

The contract of new chancellor Phyllis Wise pays her $500,000 a year-and a half-million dollar bonus if she stays five years. She and her life partner just purchased a Champaign home listed at nearly a million dollars, sharing a backyard with Champaign Country Club.

As part of Wise's contract, her partner, Richard Meisinger, was also recently hired as an associate vice president for university strategic initiatives at $190,000 a year.

"They're not just sitting around taking home a paycheck. They are figuring out ways for this university to sustain itself and become greater despite the economic forces," said Hardy. "So we are doing things where we are ringing out $26 million in savings through greater administrative efficiencies."

Mr. Hardy, a $199,000 per year university spokesman, was tapped to speak with the I-Team after the president and chancellor declined interviews.

"To know that the University of Illlinois president makes well, nearly $700,000 is galling and unconscionable," said State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D, Chicago.

Sandoval is never shy about criticizing state university spending, set by the universities boards of trustees. He says U. of I.'s leaders should not be paid more than Chicago's mayor or the governor.

"I'd just like to know what war is the president of U. of I. fighting, because he makes twice as much as the president of the United States, the leader of the free world. Unacceptable," said Sandoval.

Dr. Vedder has two degrees from U. of I. and now operates the Center for College Affordability and productivity, an independent, not-for-profit research group in Washington.

"Illinois is no worse, really, than many other schools or no different than other schools, but it is, I think, adding to the public cynicism about higher education, the public anger when they see this at the same time as they see high tuition fees and they see rising costs and they're saying, who are we running these universities for?" said Dr. Vedder. "Are we running them for the students? Are we running them for the citizens of the states? Or are we running them for the employees?"

U. of I. points out that the club memberships and the Chicago condo are paid for by the university foundation, the fundraising arm, and not by tuition. Other colleges do the same. And while data shows the U. of I.'s top administrative salaries are higher than the national average, the money and benefits are not unusual for institutions similar to Illinois. And in the Big Ten, several presidents make much more.

University of Illinois employee salaries

Center for College Affordability: