A hefty sum for Kaler

Higher education’s marketplace only justifies so much.

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents approved a new contract extension for President Eric Kaler earlier this month that will run through the 2019-20 academic year. The contract increases Kaler’s total compensation with benefits to $784,700 for the coming year. By the end of the contract, his total compensation for one year will be nearly $1 million, cementing his place among the state’s highest-paid public employees.

To be clear, this salary for the president of the University, in comparison to other prominent schools nationwide, is well within the market. For example, the presidents of Ohio State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan all make more than Kaler, even after his raises come to fruition.

Kaler has also had some success to warrant recognition. He has helped maintain for two years the University’s tuition freeze for resident undergraduates, held monthly office hours and unveiled a plan at the White House earlier this year to retain low-income students.

However, let’s not forget the elephant in the room before we pat Kaler on the back.

While the Minnesota Office of Higher Education reported earlier this month that the median debt of a Minnesota undergraduate dropped a whopping $217 from 2012 to 2013, this is still less than 1 percent of the more than $27,000 burden of higher education. However, one of the report’s authors told the Star Tribune that this drop isn’t even necessarily due to education getting cheaper. They warned it may be because the costs of a degree are scaring off potential students.

Kaler told the Minnesota Daily that he knows it’s a large salary, but he has an excuse: “We’re in a marketplace.” This is true, but it’s difficult to not expect more from a University leader when so many in the state and on campus are suffering. While Kaler’s salary is a small expense for a Big Ten school, it’s representative of the discrepancies between students, educators and administrators.