Motives matter in administration pay

Salaries may be justified by the market but still face questions.

Though they’ve faced heavy criticism in recent years, University of Minnesota administrators are paid in line with their peers in the Big Ten, according to a Minnesota Daily analysis published Wednesday.

Median base pay for senior administrators in the Daily’s analysis ranged from about $207,000 each year to nearly $550,000 annually at Ohio State. The University fell in the middle, with a median administrator salary of $287,000.

These are high salaries, especially given that all but one Big Ten school is a public institution. And in explaining why these partially taxpayer-funded employees take home sometimes more than $1 million in a year, many in higher education say it’s to compete in the competitive marketplace.

Without paying such high administrative salaries, some Big Ten officials say there’s a chance of losing the best talent to the private sector.

Still, the Editorial Board, along with some legislators and higher education experts, believes that people in higher education shouldn’t be there for the money.

“If people are being lured out of higher ed simply to make more money, then my guess is they weren’t really interested in being in higher ed,” state Rep. Zachary Dorholt, DFL-St. Cloud, told the Daily on Wednesday. “Those positions belong to people who have a passion for educating people and for learning.”

The University is doing well in cutting administrative costs, and it’s well in line with its peers. But if a school wants to truly be a pioneer for the values of higher education and research, it would do well to recruit leaders who are motivated solely by an institution’s work — not swayed by CEO-like salaries.