Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vacation Pay - $455,000

(emphasis mine)


Every budget session the University of Minnesota cries poor, laments the declining levels of state support for the institution, and suggests darkly that as financial support from the state fails to keep up with University demands, it will become less competitive with other such state institutions to the detriment of the residents of the state. While representatives of the University may trot out charts and graphs to outline unsatisfactory funding trends, you're unlikely to see an analysis of the 30-year trend of the cost per student to run the institution or the cost of tuition adjusted for inflation. That's not by accident because of course it wouldn't be pretty.

So where does all that money go?
The cost increases per student in excess of inflation? Hard telling. The University doesn't tell us, because for starters it doesn't tend to want to isolate the costs in excess of inflation in the first place, much less parse them for the factors that drive the expense.

But now and then, this time thanks to reporters at the Star Tribune, we get a glimmer of how tax dollars get spent at the University: stories of $2.8 million of executive salaries given by departing President Bob Bruininks to administrators on leave who never intended to come back. And we now learn that Bruininks himself is entitled to a 12-month $455,000 salary while on leave "for the purpose of assisting him on his return to the faculty." Parting is such sweet sweet sorrow. Pity Tania Chance, the H.R. director whose quarter-million-dollar payout from the Burnsville school district has - rightly - raised such a ruckus. Her transition includes two letters of reference, but no promise of a new job.

Transitions can be difficult, but a cool half million would probably make it a little easier. President Bruininks is headed for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs where he'll be paid $341,000 and bring a support staff of several others who will cost another $200,000 or so. Meanwhile, in this difficult time of transition Bruininks will apparently lead the Bush Foundation on an interim basis. No report on what he'll be paid there.
This is nothing personal against President Bruininks. He ran a huge institution. Perhaps he was worth more than he was paid. If so, somebody should have made that argument at the time.
But here's the problem: This is the tip of the iceberg. Don't believe that institutions that spend tax dollars in this way in this instance don't spend like this in general. The days of the poor scholar are clearly long gone. But in a time when millions of Americans would love to get paid for working, the idea of well-funded sabbaticals and transition leaves is out of date.

There's linkage between this situation, spending practices in general and the seeming inexorable cranking up of tuition costs year after year. Remember that next budget cycle when the University cries poor.

This blog has complained about poor priorities and a lack of transparency about actual cost of educational activities at the U for a very long time...

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