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Student Tuition Increases Cover Super-Competitive Regents Executive Salary

Last week I mentioned South Dakota's relatively high public university tuition increases. That post prompted a note from a friend in higher education on how one small portion of that money is spent: on the man at the top.

According to state government payroll records, Board of Regents executive director Jack Warner receives the second-highest public executive salary in the state, $323,000 a year. He oversees six and three-half university campuses with a total enrollment last fall was just over 36,100. The system he overseas last year issued 5,591 degrees (associates, undergraduate, and graduate).

South Dakota recruited Warner away from a similar job as Rhode Island's commissioner of higher education. When Warner left that post in the middle of 2009, Rhode Island was paying him $135,000 a year. He was overseeing three post-secondary campuses with a fall enrollment of 42,601. That system issued 6,291 degrees.

Governor Dennis Daugaard looks at increased spending to achieve comparable outputs in South Dakota's K-12 education system and sees bloat and inefficiency. He sees South Dakota's teacher salaries perennially buried below the national cellar, and he proposes limited bonus schemes that still wouldn't bring the lucky minority of recipients to purchasing-power parity with any surrounding state. And he resists any effort to increase taxes to pay for K-12 education salary increases that would make us competitive with other states.

Yet the Governor finds it perfectly reasonable to allow the Board of Regents to recruit an executive by paying him 2.8 times more per student overseen than he got in his previous job. The Governor finds it perfectly reasonable to allow the Regents to increase the total cost of an undergraduate education by an average of 6.2% each of the last five years.

Of the many conclusions one might draw from these facts, I note one: you college students need to get out and vote more.


  1. Mark 2012.05.21

    Another conclusion to note is the corporate aspects of higher education, particularly with its brand extension efforts for athletics. The two flagship schools in SD, now Division I, need a lot of attention by athletic directors and university presidents --- at once driving up costs, including, obviously, salaries. Higher education, to my thinking, should focus on treating students more like students, than on consumers and revenue sources. The disparity in the cost of higher education can clearly be placed on overhead which can be controlled if the will to do so can be found.

  2. Carter 2012.05.21

    Cory, is it safe to assume your "last five years" does not include the 2012-2013 year?

    I've emailed the DSU Dean of Students Affairs for confirmation, but it appears that in-state tuition has been increased by slightly more then 6.2% this year. Looking at the cost section on various university websites, the tuition last year seemed to be something around ~$114. For the 2012-2013 school year, DSU has the price listed at $240/credit hour. Unless DSU's site has a typo, that means it's actually something like 262% over four years ('09 - '13).

    As I said, I'm waiting on confirmation for this, but the price of my summer classes this year (which I mentioned in a previous thread) seem to confirm the outrageously high increase.

    If Jack Warner is getting paid that much, I wonder how much everyone else involved is being paid? Are the university presidents and deans being paid very highly as well? I don't believe it's possible that the loss of funding has prompted South Dakota tuition to rise so much compared to other states. If it is, there are better solutions than to jack up tuition.

    Mark, it didn't used to be that way. The reason that students are being treated that way is the same reason prisoners are being treated that way in the new privately-owned prisons. They're run as for-profit industries, now.

    For example, our board of regents includes Dean Krogman (a realtor), Randy Schaefer (an insurance agent), Terry Baloun (a banker and Chamber of Commerce member), Harvey Jewett (President/CEO of the Rivett Group [which owns hotels] and a lawyer), and Carole Pagones (former executive/development director of Downtown Sioux Falls). Very few have a substantial background in education. None of them, it seems, have been university professors.

    Now, none of these jobs are bad. It's just that they're all focused mainly on profit. Six out of ten board members main accomplishments have been in making things success in making lots of money. It's only natural that they would turn the same eye for profit on South Dakota universities.

    Universities systems are run like businesses by businessmen, is what it boils down to. The students will be treated like customers because that's what they are to the businessmen in charge.

  3. jana 2012.05.21

    Just a quick question for anyone that knows...have the Democratic candidates and leadership been active on our campuses?

    Can you imagine the howling from the Brand Board if they would have been subjected to these increases? Wait...what? I don't have to imagine that, they did and the Governor listened and caved. But then the Brand Board and their constituents have money for campaigns.

    I simply can't imagine that there is any other group out there that would stay silent with these types of increases.

    I also can't imagine why the university leaders aren't standing up for their students and their parents.

  4. Carter 2012.05.21

    I haven't heard about any Democratic candidates at DSU, but I don't know about the rest of the Universities, Jana.

    As for why the university leaders aren't standing up for their students, I'd venture to guess that they're benefiting from this, as well. More pay, etc. I'm not sure what deans are paid, but I can't imagine that those even higher up (like the University president, whenever he's chosen) won't be making a good bit of cash.

    It's nothing unexpected, really. University food services have been privatized for years. Food companies try to get the low bid for providing meals to the students, and then they have basically free reign to charge whatever they want. The money is great because everyone in the dorms is required to buy a meal plan, which costs ludicrous amounts of money.

  5. jana 2012.05.21

    Carter: "The money is great because everyone in the dorms is required to buy a meal plan..."

    OMG, alert the Republicans that they have issued a government mandate that people have to buy something! That is really going to make the AG Jackley he files a lawsuit or something. Of course, I bet once the idealogues in Pierre hear about this they will be furious about this as well. And here we thought all along that they were for a free market.

  6. Carter 2012.05.21

    Well, hey. If they're getting money out of the deal, why should they care? They're not about "free markets" they're about "pro-corporations". There are many Republican-created regulations on businesses, but they're mostly regulations that crush the competition of whoever is paying them money. Not that the Dems are necessarily any better. Just more subtle, maybe.

    I don't think it's going to change as long as the status quo is how it is. We live in what's fast becoming a plutocracy. In many places it already is. And the people heading up the plutocrats know that, if there's any place that better lends itself to changing the status quo, it's universities. So they make universities part of their status quo, and suddenly that problem goes away.

    Universities used to be bastions of liberal thought and action. Now they're becoming collections of rich kids who back the rich politicians, who help the rich kids' fathers become rich politicians themselves. South Dakota clearly isn't immune.

  7. jana 2012.05.21

    My bad. I forgot that South Dakota Republicans prided themselves in socializing risk and privatizing profits. Sorry for the error.

  8. Douglas Wiken 2012.05.21

    Mandatory fees to support intercollegiate athletics should be made voluntary. The regents might find out in a hurry that a lot of kids could care less about subsidizing jocks to the tune of and extra $3000 of debt after four years.

  9. Carter 2012.05.21

    $3000 added debt isn't a whole lot, in the grand scheme of things. The problem is, and always will be, cost/credit hour and housing/meal costs. 120 credits at $240/credit is $28000 just for credits alone. Add in $600 in random fees (estimate) per semester, and that's $32800. Meals and housing is ~$3000/semester, so that's $56,800 just for directly university-related things. Add in other costs over four years that can't be avoided (or paid for by the student) and you're looking at $70,000+ at DSU, with US average post-college salary of $46,000.

    The $3000 isn't as big a deal (though I agree it should be made voluntary, although I'm willing to hear arguments in favor of it). The thousands of dollars per semester for everything else is what needs to come down. Universities shouldn't cost anything, if you ask me.

    Get rid of private education entirely, make all education paid for by the state. I'm willing to put some tax money towards college education, especially when I have $70,000 extra when I graduate.

  10. Michael Black 2012.05.21

    This is not a problem unique to DSU or even South Dakota. States have cut funding to higher ed across the nation. Student debt is now considered a ticking time bomb by economists and is the anchor that has prevented real recovery from taking off. Students are moving home after school because one cannot afford to buy a house if your are tens of thousands of dollars in the hole.

    I always advise seniors to do whatever they can to avoid student loans. Living at home for four years under parental rule is a far better option in my eyes to crushing debt payments.

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