Presidents squeak by on $200,000 a year |

Presidents squeak by on $200,000 a year

Nevada Appeal editorial board

Excuse us while we shed some crocodile tears over the sad state of pay for university presidents in Nevada.

According to a study commissioned by the University and Community College System, Nevada’s university presidents fall about $30,000 short of the average at 26 universities in the West.

Carol Harter makes $209,038 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and John Lilley is paid $206,960 annually at Reno. Both get $31,000 a year for housing, car and expenses.

First, let us say $200,000-plus a year is still a handsome wage, especially for someone who doesn’t have housing and car expenses.

Second, we have to point out how much we detest these surveys of “average” government employee pay. The obvious flaw is that if Nevada raises the salaries of its university presidents, everyone else in the survey suddenly falls that much farther behind the “average.” If they catch up — ouch — Nevada is lagging again.

Third, did the survey take into account the cost of living? There’s a difference between Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota and Wyoming. A salary survey probably would also show the salary of the janitor who sweeps out the president’s office is higher on Oahu than in Minot.

In addition, having a private foundation supplement the presidents’ pay — the idea that gave rise to the salary survey — is fraught with potential conflicts.

We’d just as soon not have our leaders of higher education making decisions based on the fact that 15 or 20 percent of their salary is being paid by some corporation, no matter how noble the intent.

If Nevada can’t afford to pay university presidents more, then regents must hire within their budget restraints. If regents believe the salaries should be higher, then put more money in the budget.

The people whose pocket they’re taking money from — students and taxpayers — are the only ones to whom those presidents should be accountable.