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Analysis: Legislators resent college salaries

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ATLANTA --- Monday's list of possible cuts at the state's 35 public colleges and universities contained 4,000 layoffs, enrollment caps and elimination of dozens of majors. Not listed was use of pay cuts.

Legislators said they were disappointed. Sen. Seth Harp, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committees Subcommittee on Higher Education, said leaders should make the first sacrifice.

Sen. John Douglas, the secretary of the subcommittee, suggested that University of Georgia President Michael Adams give up his $125,000 salary supplement to his $600,000 base pay.

"I don't even make $125,000," said Douglas, R-Social Circle.

The head of the largest state agency outside of the University System, B.J. Walker, earned $164,000 last year at the Department of Human Resources. Gov. Sonny Perdue made less than $140,000.

Yet, more than 18 people at UGA alone make more than $200,000.

Chancellor Erroll Davis told the members of the House and Senate higher education subcommittees Wednesday that cutting pay wasn't an option because keeping senior people was a priority.

"One of the tenets of business is you pay people competitive wages," he said, noting that not only is his background in the energy business rather than a career in academia but that he also sits on the boards of two private universities that are actively poaching public colleges that cut pay.

Besides, the presidents of Georgia's public universities earn less than comparable schools in the Southeast, he said.

Legislators are facing two politically unpopular choices, cutting education or raising taxes.

To see how unpopular cutting education might be, the subcommittees asked Davis for a list of cuts that would total $300 million, the amount of a tax increase Perdue is recommending. Davis' list was not to include tuition increases.

Lawmakers learned quickly how unpopular cuts can be when the protests began.

They also got a reminder last week of how unpopular taxes are. A coalition of anti-smoking groups released a poll showing 71 percent of those surveyed the prior week opposed increasing the sales tax, 78 percent opposed increasing the income tax, 81 percent opposed Perdue's tax on hospitals and medical plans, and 85 percent rejected adding back the sales tax on groceries. The survey, which has a 4 percent margin of error, did show that 71 percent favor a higher tobacco tax.

Given two unpopular choices, why not look for a third option? That's what legislators did Monday after Davis released his initial list. They asked him for information on specific ranges of cuts.

Cutting all pay 1 percent would yield $10 million in savings, he told them Wednesday. To get the whole $300 million would take a 28 percent pay cut.

Besides the impact on morale, take-home pay has already been cut 5.5 percent from furloughs and increases in the employee share of health insurance.

Within the system, 70 percent of the 50,000 employees earn less than $50,000, and 92 percent earn less than $200,000 because only one of every five workers in the system is a faculty member.

Rep. Bill Hembree, the former chairman of the Higher Education Committee and now Rules chairman, reminded Davis that with a record 10.4 percent unemployment rate, many parents and taxpayers are happy just to have a job.

The frustrating thing for lawmakers is that no matter what they suggest, the Board of Regents is free to do whatever it wants, thanks to independence spelled out in the constitution.

Proposed cuts for MCG, Augusta State

Medical College of Georgia

- Residency programs in Augusta (Program cost: $5 million; People affected: Unspecified)

- Residency programs for expansion in Athens, Savannah and Albany (Program cost: $5.9 million; People affected: Unspecified)

- Cancer programs (Program cost: $5 million; People affected: Unspecified)

- School of Allied Health Sciences (Program cost: $2.45 million; People affected: 20 faculty, 5 staff, 155 students)

- School of Nursing (Program cost: $1.75 million; People affected: 18 faculty, 4 staff, 70 students turned away, 80 unable to complete degrees)

- Student Education Enrichment Program, Statewide Area Health Education Center (Program cost: $800,000; People affected: 75 disadvantaged and minority students, 5 staff, partial salary for 5 faculty with SEEP, two faculty, four staff for AHEC)

Augusta State University

- Nursing program (Program cost: $1.6 million; People affected: 12 faculty, 2 staff)

- Drama program (Program cost: $151,000; People affected: 2 faculty)

- Continuing education (Program cost: $167,000; People affected: 1 faculty, 1 staff)

- College of Education (Program cost: $428,000; People affected: 6 faculty)

- Academic support staff (Program cost: $320,000; People affected: 6 staff)

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Cadence 03/07/10 - 05:10 am
I think the free market

I think the free market should take care of salary amounts, not the government. Next they will dictate what I can make and then what you can make. They need to stay out of it.

jamesnewsome 03/07/10 - 09:26 am
It is unconscionable to think

It is unconscionable to think that top administrators in the state’s universities should be immune to “sharing the pain” with the proposed cutbacks. They are in a better position to weather the financial storm that other faculty member and support staff. If they think their services and talents are worth more that the state can afford to pay them at this difficult time then they are more than welcome to test the private sector market.

Boo-Hoo 03/07/10 - 10:03 am
As I have said before,

As I have said before, everyone in government, including education, should “share the burden” along with the rest of us. During this economic down-turn there should be a 25% across-the board cut in salaries of anyone making over $100K….they are all overpaid.

devgru1 03/07/10 - 10:58 am
Erroll Davis needs to go. I

Erroll Davis needs to go. I have already contacted him requesting his resignation. I am asking everyone else to do the same. If this doesn't work we will move to the next level. Dr. Rahn at MCG made around $500,000 in 2009. His state base pay was a little over $200,000, so he was pulling in another 250,000 in perks.

Brad Owens
Brad Owens 03/07/10 - 10:40 am
$600,000.00 PLUS a

$600,000.00 PLUS a $125,000.00 BONUS!!!!!!

Everyone should have to give up 10% and that would be $10,000,000.00

And the balance should be made up with tuition increases, cuts in admin, and then a cut in programs that are way out on the fringe of mainstream higher education.

By the way, what good does 'student demonstrations' do in this case?

As if the lawmakers DIDN'T know the students didn't want the system to be cut.

Oh well, at least they feel better, almost like they are 1960's hippies HUH? Too bad we don't have a draft anymore.


P.S. The Georgia National Guard will pay 100% of your tuition if you are a member. Join the Army, See the World, Earn an Education.


corgimom 03/07/10 - 02:14 pm
Stop trying to offer

Stop trying to offer everything to everybody. WHY is there 3 places to get a nursing degree in the Augusta-Aiken area? MCG, ASU, and USC-Aiken. Consolidate this!

Look at the incredible costs on this. MCG- $1.75 million dollars a year to educate EIGHTY people? 18 instructors for EIGHTY people? FOUR instructors per person? ASU, $1.6 million per year to get a nursing degree, and there are only a few students in the program?

Something will have to be cut. People will have to go elsewhere. Georgia no longer has the money to fund everything for everybody.

Remember Bill Clinton's mother Virginia Kelley? She left Hope, AR and went to New Orleans to train as a nurse. That's what people used to do- if you wanted particular training, you went to where you needed to go.

DoggieMom 03/07/10 - 04:28 pm
I don't think people

I don't think people understand that you have to have experienced physicians to lead and train resident doctors. If you cut their salaries, they all go away, and the residents don't get trained. If you hire inexperienced docs, willing to work for a lot less money than in the private sector, then the residency review committees (nation wide accreditation for training doctors) will take away the program. You either have well trained docs with 10-20 years experience, or your program goes away. A few years ago, the orthopedic department at MCG went through this very scenario. A resident cannot bill insurance if they are not overseen by a Board Certified doctor on each patient. So no senior docs=no income for that department, and no training is going on. Most docs take a huge pay cut to work in an academic hospital, and they work many more hours, and have to produce lectures, research, plus see patients. The docs that have stayed at MCG are the people that truly love teaching, and are willing to make the sacrifice of 1/3-1/2 of the income they would make by running their own practice. It is far more complex than anyone is willing to admit.

Interestingly, the demand that part of MCG move to Athens is very short sighted and expensive. Athens has a much higher cost of housing than Augusta, and if you require people to train in more than one city, they also have to have housing in each city. Having the numerous hospitals and patients in Augusta is a huge bonus to education. There are students at every hospital in Augusta, even the medical prison. Athens doesn't have the patient numbers to support more medical programs at UGA. Already, many of the UGA students come to Augusta for the clinical rotations in their programs.

To fix this problem:

Raise tuition. Georgia has some of the least expensive schools in the nation.

Cancel the plans to move and programs to/from Athens for now, until the economy recovers (possibly 10 years?). Having affordable housing in place before you start a program would only make sense.

Combine all of the state run nursing programs, or divide into 2 or 3 regions. (I attended nursing school in the 1970's, and 70 nurses were taught and led by 4 master nurses).

Then, AUDIT each and every department at every institution. There is excess everywhere, and that should be cut out, or paid back.

Audit the HOPE program. There are many students that drop classes or somehow "cheat" the system. If they don't pass the class with a "B" or higher, they should be required to pay back the school for that class. Even better, reverse the pay out....only pay out the HOPE after the semester is over, and a full load has been completed with all "B"s or higher. Not just a "B" average. No other state has such a generous HOPE program. Having any student pay the first semester on their own, and then getting and staying on the HOPE would cut a lot of drop outs, and only pay for good grades, not for the 1st semester of drinking that many college freshmen experience. College should be a privelege, not an entitlement.

Cancel the "Free Food" and many of the benefits given to all residents, medical students, etc. Departmental parties should be paid for by each attendee. Alcohol should be a cash bar. Overhearing residents talk about attending meetings where they got drunk, paid for by the institution, is just plain wrong. Also, chairmen giving each other presents at departmental expense is wrong.

Health care for all students and employees should be "get it here, or pay for it yourself". Patient confidentiality should be a concern, not just for employees, but for each and every patient.

The University system needs to Audit the grants and scholarships given to each student for the same purpose. There is a lot of "breaking the rules" that goes on in every educational program (the technical term is FRAUD).

We lived on ramen and soup through school, and while that's not great, it makes you appreciate when you have your debts paid off.

Hiring MORE doctors could actually increase the revenue from MCG. Every patient that is seen by a resident, but not by faculty, is not allowed to be billed by most insurance companies.
No faculty=No billing=No revenue. Also, many patients leave without being seen if there are not enough doctors.

Everyone thinks that the doctors cost the hospital a lot of money, but in reality, they are the only people that are paying their own way. Cutting doctors will reduce revenue.

Nurses also pay for themselves, but to a lesser extent. However, there cannot be good patient care without good nurses. They are a requirement, and most nurses at MCG also teach residents, medical students and nursing students.

A good billing specialist (coder) is worth their weight in gold. They can bill correctly, and get payment back quickly, or they can mis-bill, and delay the payment process for months. These people can make a big difference in the "cash flow" of the hospital.

Administrators generally do not pay for themselves. Cut the number of administrators from every department. Have a central business office and a centralized training center for all departments, and you could easily cut a lot of high paid administrators that bring little to the table. The same with multiple secretaries in every department.

I've sat reading in the cafeteria (waiting for a family member) and watched secretarial people and nurses aids taking 2-3 hour breaks. Start monitoring your people. No one should "go missing" from their job for that long.

Hopefully, the new president of MCG will be able to look at the whole of MCG programs objectively, and be able to make cuts without bias.

Good luck to Dr. Rahn. Arkansas is in just as big of a mess, maybe even bigger!

Retired nurse.

galaxygrl 03/07/10 - 04:37 pm
How are we suppose to protect

How are we suppose to protect our children and our country's future without educating them.? Another step down the road to decline of this Roman Empire. We are destroying ourselves from with in, no enemy needs step foot on our land. And for the people that make over $200,000 a year, how long did they go to school to earn that money? I mean don't hate on people because they make more than you, educate yourself and make that money yourself. Why are we opening a satellite campus in Athens instead of keeping all of the money at MCG, does that make since? How much money was spent buying the land and buildings to convert it and move staff there? Just some thoughts running through my mind. Not only that, new businesses for our state look at education statistics as a determining factor to bring a business here. How is that going to help our state? Why should my or anyone else's child have to go out of state for a quality education when the lottery money is for education.

jack 03/07/10 - 04:42 pm
I fully agree tht University

I fully agree tht University heads should also bear the burden of budget cuts in these times of cuts every where else. I believe cutting the nursing program at ASU is a big mistake with the pending federal health care reform that will require MORE doctors and nurses. Also, doing away with the school of education will hurt our schools with a shortage of teachers in the future. Brad, I agree-join the Army, see the world and get a college education paid for.

disssman 03/07/10 - 08:21 pm
And now you folks that cried

And now you folks that cried foul, when I wrote that essentially 10 percent of our teachers in RCSS make 6 figure salaries, are finally seeing that it isn't just local. The Education system across the state is out of control and how did it happen? Why by playing on peoples symphathies that it is for the betterment of the "children" and nothing less will do. Should there be salaty cuts? Absolutely. Should those cuts be 10 percent across the board? Absolutely not. I think that a 10 percent cut for a teacher making 30, 000 is harder on the person than a 10 percent cut on someone making 725,000. If we want to be fair to all, a progressive increase in reductions is mandated. That way a 30,000 salary would be cut 1 percent, a 40,000 salary would be cut 2 percent etc. I wonder if any of these super salaries would have happened if an old fashioned survey of the position had been performed. That is a survey where a position is evaluated for an entire period to determine just what is done routinely.

Chillen 03/07/10 - 08:30 pm
disssman. We already have

disssman. We already have progressive taxes. Now you want progressive pay decreases also?!! Spoken like a true liberal.

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