University of Texas System salaries on the rise

The Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 5, 2003, Tuesday

Salaries for top administrators at the University of Texas System have risen during the past four years, yet higher education funding has declined and student tuition has increased, a newspaper reported.

Many UT System administrators had pay raises of more than 30 percent during the four-year period, doubling top salaries to almost $6.5 million, according to UT System records obtained by the Austin bureau of The Dallas Morning News.

At the same time, the system's executive ranks grew from 24 to 34 positions, and programs overseen by the executive staff expanded by 60 percent, to $7.8 billion.

UT-Chancellor Mark Yudof defended the increases. He said competitive pay is important to retain quality people and that UT's administrator pay is in line with other universities.

The larger staff, he said, is needed to run new programs and to solicit federal dollars, foundations and grants to support the university system.

"In every case, the system has grown so much it seems necessary to have them," he said.

Yudof, who was hired last year, also received a raise. His salary of $350,000, plus benefits, rose to $468,000. Most of his salary, however, comes from private donations because state law caps the chancellor's salary at $70,000.

State lawmakers have set up a special higher education committee to examine administrative costs and other issues.

The committee was part of a deal reached with university officials this legislative session when they won the right to set their own tuition rates, said committee chairwoman Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.

"One of the things that we intended when we did tuition deregulation was to be able to have a legislative committee that could oversee those types of issues. So when we saw glaring changes like these, that we could bring those forward," Shapiro said.

Shapiro declined to comment on UT's salaries.

The salaries and new positions were approved by the board because the system has taken on bigger challenges and greater responsibilities, include improving K-12 public education, long-distance learning programs and accountability standards for public universities, UT Board of Regents chairman Charles Miller said.

The system filled two jobs with former top assistants for Gov. Rick Perry.

E. Ashley Smith, a former legislative liaison for the governor, was hired last year by UT as its chief lobbyist at the Legislature. The salary for the post went from $179,500 in 1999 to $284,000.

Michael McKinney, a physician who served in the Legislature and worked as the governor's chief of staff, is now vice chancellor of health affairs. The salary for that position went from $256,000 to $375,000.

Yudof said the system is running efficiently and with proper oversight.

In next year's budget, the UT System administration will cut 26 positions and will trim $1.8 million over 2003. The $28.9 million proposed budget for 2004 is $9.4 million more than the administration spent in 1999.

The emphasis on administration is hurting research assistants and graduate students, who work in classrooms and provide vital research help have seen benefit cuts, said Robert Nelson, chairman of the Faculty Advisory Committee for the UT System and a professor at UT-Dallas.

Some campuses have eliminated staff positions. More than 150 staff members were cut at UT-Austin, said Glen Worley, chairman of the Staff Council at the campus.

"This is the first year they haven't been able to offer some kind of raise," he said. "It's been a little scary. No one's ever been laid off here before."