University of Maine System salaries deserve scrutiny

Growth in the payroll for the University of Maine System over the past eight years is a classic example of how publicly funded entities can function wholly out of perspective and, in many cases, with total disregard for the reality most citizens live in.

Consider that over the past seven years, according to data recently released by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the number of employees in the UMaine system making more than $100,000 a year increased from about 400 to more than 1,000.

In net terms, the system added an estimated $600 million to its payroll costs over this period. That’s the equivalent of any Maine household or business increasing its expenses by 150 percent.

From 2004 to 2010 former system President Robert Kennedy saw his total compensation increase from $188,043 to $308,368 — a 63 percent increase.

University officials will argue the burgeoning number of faculty now in the $100,000-plus club is necessary to retain and recruit the talented professors and research scientists needed to keep the university system competitive and attractive.

This same talent pool is responsible for securing millions of dollars in grant funding for the system and, without competitive salaries, this revenue would be lost.

It seems an illogical jump because, fraught with revenue problems and reductions in state funding, the system steadily and dramatically increased tuition rates. If this talented grant-writing staff is hauling in so much needed revenue, why the revenue shortages and why the steady and opulent salary increases?

Tuition for in-state students at the university system over the same period jumped from $157 per credit in 2003 to $267 per credit in 2010 — a 67 percent increase, nearly mirroring the increase in the former president’s compensation.

In 2012, the per-credit cost for Maine students is again expected to jump by 4.5 percent to $279 under the current budget proposal, unveiled in March.

Not surprisingly, as tuition leaped upward, enrollment shot downward, further exacerbating the system’s revenue losses.

By 2016, based on the system’s own projections, the Orono campus alone will have 561 fewer full-time students, according to a report in the student newspaper, the Maine Campus.

The backdrop for all of this is a Maine and national economy still reeling and stumbling through an unsteady and very uncertain recovery.

While the system’s payroll increased by a whopping 150 percent during the years contained in the MHPC study, median family incomes in Maine, according to the latest U.S. Census data, increased only 30 percent. The state’s minimum wage — the wage many students earn — climbed only 20 percent.

Our students should have the very best and brightest professors and other faculty the state can afford. At the same time, the cost of higher education cannot continue to be placed further and further beyond the reach of most of Maine’s working-class families.

It’s time system officials get serious about the financial realities Maine families are facing by fairly balancing the costs borne by students with the compensation paid to university staff.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

University of Maine System salaries deserve scrutiny

. . That's an interesting appraisal , LSJ®
Scrutinize away :)
We believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we - u s e d - to be
Everybody's searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
We never found anyone to fulfill our needs
So we learned to depend on ourselves , etc. , paraphrasing Whitney Houston's 1 9 8 8 song
In Europe , South and Central America and la Canada professors are held in the same high esteem as doctors and - coughs - lawyers and are paid accordingly ( their health care is ƒree , too :)
b t w - What's happening over to Bates College ? How come the President resigned so soon ? Was it over money or benefits , per chance ¿
/s, Dr. Dosh , Bates '78 & Ohana , Hawai'i • Monday 11.10.17 15:40 ?

Steve Lovejoy's picture

Higher Education in Maine

The Heritage Policy Center is great at coming up with issues they want to rave about, just to stir up people to advance their agenda. Yes, payroll has gone up in the system. Yes, tuition has gone up. Yes, it is an increased burden on students. Yes, there are more people making over $100,000 in the system than there used to be! So?

Recruiting and retaining talented instructors isn't easy. Why? Consider the increasing movement of people out of rural Maine to find better jobs in Southern Maine or out of state. They move for more income, better opportunities, a more diverse community with greater choices in things to do and see. If we want to compare salaries between the average Mainer are we comparing them to their peers? No! We cannot compare salary growth for those without a college degree to those with a doctorate! Perhaps the Maine Heritage Policy Center should do some more work and look at the competitive marketplace for people with advanced degrees. What kind of a comparison to other state university systems have they done? None! Why? I suspect it is because they might find we are far from the outrageous exception they try to portray!

KATHRYN PENDLETON's picture

Dan

I'll pay attention to the Occupation of Wall Street if I see you heading to NYC with a tent.

Mark Wrenn's picture

MHPC?

Do you really believe anything the Maine Heritage Policy Center puts out?

 's picture

the SJ does, I suspect they

the SJ does, I suspect they are one of the entities that funds it, because they cite its 'studies' all the time.

 's picture

Well Mr. Thistle, why come

Well Mr. Thistle, why come down so hard on the one institution trying to better this society, why have you been so silent about the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon that has been occurring over the past month? Is it you and yours are part of the 1% who is destroying this country. Perhaps you FAILED to comment on taliban paul's attempt to destroy higher education, simply to prop your guy up. Isn't it time you and this paper start trying to help this country, instead of trying to destroy it?

Ed McCaffrey's picture

Shut up,Dan

I'm one of those people who had to stop taking classes because of the increase in tuition costs. I will be paying for (forever) those classes that I did take, as well as for the classes and benefits of those government welfare recipients who refuse to go out and do an honest day's labour because it is "beneath them".
The old saying goes "Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach." If the staff of the University of Maine system were the best and the brightest, they would be out there making names for themselves in the fields of their choice or working at a big name school or research facility.
As far as "Taliban Paul" goes, his ideas are sound. Paying teachers who fail to educate is sort of like paying CMP for failing to deliver electricity. We don't have much of a choice with either one. Cmp is the only provider and all of the teachers belong to a union that has the state over a barrel. Pay the people who are producing actual results, not just teaching to the test, and stop funding those who are not. if the instructors teaching in the UMaine system cannot provide the same degree of education that teachers at BC or MIT are providing, then they shouldn't be getting the same pay. And even if they can, they shouldn't expect or receive the same pay due to the simple fact that this is Maine.
Oh, as far as the Occupy Wall Street thing goes, They've gotten all the coverage that they deserve. You'll notice that president Obama has raised 45 million dollars in corporate and private monies and the republican nominees have managed to raise about 25 million altogether. Guess where the corporate funding is going??? it's going to the person with the weakest spine.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Heard on the radio yesterday

Heard on the radio yesterday that tuition costs to attend Harvard University are up around $65,000 a year, but, in the same report it was mentioned that their endowment fund boasts a surplus of billions of dollars. Why does that smell so badly?

RONALD RIML's picture

Better check your figures...

Republican nominees only raised $25 Million??

Your dreaming, Ed. Better check your figures. This is what's been reported so far - $35,703,601 - for these seven candidates - without Perry having reported his take yet. And this isn't counting all the 'Not-so-likely' contenders.

Go see --> http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/2012-republican-presidential-candidates-a...

Romney $18,195,223
Cain $2,580,725
Bachmann $3,636,523
Gingrich $2,094,866
Paul $4,514,166
Santorum $582,098
Huntsman $4,100,000

If you can't get this claim right - how can we believe anything else you expound on???

Ed McCaffrey's picture

Does it really matter?

All of you people with your facts and figures seem to think that they really matter. None of it is really worth a damn when it comes down to voting time. The vast majority of people are going to vote for the most charismatic person on the television. They're not really gonna care who believes what. Educated voters like you or I might but the average person usually goes with his gut.
As far as who has raised what, all of the REALLY viable contenders together (which is what I meant) haven't been able to match what Obama has done alone and that's with approval ratings in the toilet. Besides that I don't have enough time to sit on top of the earnings charts to follow them minute by minute. The fact of the matter is that due to his willingness to cave to big business, just like the republicans he demonizes, he's raking in money hand over fist, and you're a fool if you think it's all from private donors.
Until you can prove me wrong, my statement stands... he's being funded by corporations because they know he'll support them in the long run. He's a hypocrite playing both ends of the field. He's all for labor until he gets their votes and then gets in bed with big business once the marriage is finalized.
Don't get me wrong, he'll get my vote again if I have to make a choice between him or Perry. If it comes down to Obama or Paul/Romney/Cain the choice will be more difficult. I've grown used to living in a country where my government answers to me and I'd like to see it stay that way.

RONALD RIML's picture

Facts & Figures??..

You're the Dude who dragged "Little Miss Twenty Five Million $$$" to the Dance, Ed.....

Then upon your finding out she wasn't what what you said she was - you get pissed off at me??

I already proved you wrong - I don't need to prove you wronger.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You had me Ed, until you said

You had me Ed, until you said you'd hand barak hussein oBAMa a shot at a second term. There is no justification for him being elected to a second term, and some of us who feel that way are scared $*%#less that it will probably happen anyway. Those of us who can remember how America once was, are in awe of just how dumb and uninformed American voters have become.

Ed McCaffrey's picture

I did say that

the only way I'd do it was if it came down to a choice between him or Perry. For some reason Perry (and to a lesser degree, Bachmann) terrifies me. Rest assured, I don't want him in office any more than you do for another 4 years. I must admit that I was taken in by the hype during the last election. I probably would have voted for McCain if he hadn't had that woman as a running mate. I have nothing against women in elected office, only against THAT woman. She scares me more than Perry.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I know exactly what you're

I know exactly what you're saying, Ed. Perry and Bachman don't exactly arouse my enthusiasm, either. I voted for McCain, but held my nose doing it. I'd love to have a presidential election where the choices didn't narrow down to 'going to a house of ill repute to pick a virgin bride'.

RONALD RIML's picture

Say what???

If 'Facts & Figures" don't matter, then why the hell do you present them???

Which orifice are you going to speak out of next, Ed???

 's picture

nice smorgasbord of rant, so

nice smorgasbord of rant, so let's dissect them, one at a time. So you feel that the University should settle for second rate professors, instead of attracting people top in their field? I guess you don't want students to learn from the best, nothing I can say to argue with that, except that's stupid.

So now you're saying that UMAINE professors are not able to teach? We shouldn't expect the same caliber yet you shouldn't pay them either? And what does taliban paul propose to do with them, fire the whole lot?

And Occupy Wall Street hasn't received anywhere near the amount of coverage it deserves, it hasn't even received the amount of coverage that the teawaggers get. And last I looked, only one person is running for president on the democratic side, while a gaggle of people are running as republicans, and many donors don't what to commit until they see a winner, and no one has seen one on the republicans side, yet.

Joe Morin's picture

Well...

"So you feel that the University should settle for second rate professors, instead of attracting people top in their field? I guess you don't want students to learn from the best, nothing I can say to argue with that, except that's stupid."
I think it is more stupid to allow costs to soar to a point where enrollment is lessening and students can't afford to attend. On another thread I'm sure I'll find you ranting about the cost of higher education....

 's picture

the reaso students won't be

the reaso students won't be able to afford to attend is because taliban paul isn't willing to fully fund the university.

Joe Morin's picture

or...

Because "In net terms, the system added an estimated $600 million to its payroll costs over this period." as stated in the article above...

Ed McCaffrey's picture

At this point in time

There isn't another Democrat stupid enough to throw his hat into the ring. They'd be eaten alive by not only the press but the public as well. I don't blame them for opting out. It's the first sign of political intelligence I've seem from either side in a long time.
I'm not even going to get into the other stuff with you. Watch all of the news stations, read all of the commentaries, and put together an informed opinion based on a variety of perspectives rather than just one.

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