The California State University board of trustees on Wednesday capped salaries of newly hired campus presidents at $325,000 after an outcry over a $400,000 pay package approved for a new president last year when tuition shot up 12 percent.
The new policy will establish a salary ceiling of $325,000 or raise the salary by no more than 10 percent of the pay received by the outgoing president.
The board approved the new policy without comment. Trustees are currently searching for five presidents in the 23-campus system, a turnover administrators said was unprecedented.
The move comes after two bills were introduced in the state Senate to limit presidents' salaries after the board last year approved a $400,000 pay package for the new president of San Diego State University, Elliot Hirshman, that includes a $350,000 salary and a $50,000 supplement from a campus foundation.
The salary was $100,000 more than the outgoing president, making Hirshman the highest-paid CSU president.
Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, applauded the trustees' move to cap salaries but said it did not go far enough.
"Those making hundreds of thousands of dollars should not receive double-digit pay increases during bad budget times or when students are forced to foot the bill," Yee said.
He has introduced legislation, SB 967, to prohibit pay raises for top university administrators during bad budget years or when student fees are increased. The bill will also stipulate that incoming executives can receive only 5 percent more than their predecessors.
Another legislator, Sen. Ted Lieu, who sponsored another bill, SB 959 — to limit raises, give priority to local candidates and require executive pay decisions to be made in open session — had expressed outrage over Hirshman's compensation package at a time when students are being asked to pay more for their education to make up for state funding cuts.
"CSU trustees should not be spending limited state resources granting $100,000 raises for executive positions," said Lieu, who also praised the board's move.
Hirshman's raise came after a report last year by a board subcommittee showed that CSU presidents are underpaid compared with university leaders across the nation. But a state legislative analyst said the universities chosen for comparison skewed the salary average upward.
"These institutions appear to unduly raise the corresponding average executive salary," stated analyst Mac Taylor.
Annual compensation packages for CSU presidents range from $258,000 to $400,000, plus housing. Four presidents also earn supplements from campus foundations. Chancellor Charles Reed earns $451,500 plus housing.
CSU enrolls approximately 440,000 students.