By Shawn Vestal The Spokesman-Review
SPOKANE — Raises have been scarce and budget cuts common at colleges dealing with the fallout from the worst state budget in memory.
But between January 2007 and January 2009, the largest paychecks at Washington State University got quite a bit larger. In that period, the money spent at the very top of the pay scale rose by nearly 23 percent, more than three times the typical salary increase at WSU and well above inflation and average wage increases nationally.
If you omit the salary increase granted when President Elson Floyd was hired in 2007, the rise was 18 percent among the top salaries. The top tier of salaries at Eastern Washington University, meanwhile, grew by 11 percent. At the Community Colleges of Spokane, it was 7 percent, in line with the average state-funded pay raise.
Meanwhile, students saw their tuition bills shoot up — at WSU, tuition rose 14 percent from 2007 to 2009. It rose another 14 percent this year, and will go up by that amount again next year. Lawmakers are starting to work on another brutal budget now, and the smart money is on more tuition hikes.
Comparing top salaries at colleges over a two-year period is difficult. People are promoted; administrative jobs are combined or eliminated; new people are hired and others leave. Further, state salary databases, while available to the public, are difficult to decipher and sort for the purposes of comparison.
The Spokesman-Review analyzed state budget data to identify the top 20 positions from 2007 and 2009, taken as a total expense, and compared the change.
In 2007, some $4.4 million was directed to the top 20 salaries at WSU. In 2009, that figure was more than $5.4 million — not including nearly half a million paid to former football coach Bill Doba under his contract.
The raises came before the state’s budget collapse, when funding was at robust levels. This year, with budget cuts of more than 10 percent, top WSU administrators chose to give back 5 percent of their pay, which helped preserve some jobs, said Tim Pavish, vice president of university relations. Floyd was scheduled for a 21 percent raise, but he gave back $100,000.
Pavish said the university pays its administrators comparably with other schools of its size and has taken steps in recent years to combine some administrative positions, which accounts for some of the increases for administrators whose duties expanded. In most cases, the raises were to recruit or keep top people, WSU said.
“The salaries did go up at a higher level than the 7 percent that was allocated by the state” for 2007-08, he said. “But there are a lot of other factors that were included in making the decisions about what people were being paid.”