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Audit reveals CSU management hired, paid at higher rates

In the wake of a tuition increase and last year’s narrowly avoided faculty strike, the financial priorities of the 23 Cal State schools are being scrutinized after a state audit reported that the school system has been hiring and compensating management personnel at a higher rate than faculty and staff for the last nine years.   

The audit was released on April 20 after state review of CSU campuses. Auditors visited six CSU campus: San Bernardino, Northridge, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and San Luis Obispo. It also accused the CSU system of monitoring their budgets ineffectively and offering executives large relocation reimbursements.

According to the audit, every fiscal year since 2007, the number of management positions at CSU’s rose at a rate higher than other personnel groups and, while many of the campuses offered sound reasons for needing new positions, they often could not justify why they needed so many of them.

Full-time equivalent management personnel grew by 15 percent from fiscal years 2007-2008 to 2015-2016, according to the audit. Meanwhile, faculty increased by only 7 percent and non-faculty support staff by 6 percent.

“This report concludes that growth in the number and compensation of management personnel significantly outpaced those of other employee types, including non-faculty support staff,” wrote State auditor Elaine M. Howle.

According to CSULB spokesperson Terri Carbaugh, “As of October 2016, and since 2007, the number of management employees [at CSULB] has increased only by 2.4 percent, staff by 6.1 percent and faculty by 5 percent. Whereas our campus serves roughly 7.6 percent of CSU students, we employ only about 5.6 percent of the system’s [Management Personnel Program], 5.3 percent of the system’s staff and 7.6 percent of CSU faculty.”

“Our human resources department retains tight controls around hiring,” Carbaugh said. “Our classification and compensation system is among the top in the system.”

In his response to the audit, Chancellor Timothy White reminded the state that, “CSU’s management staffing levels and administrative costs are much lower than other similar higher education institutions both within California and nationally.”

Around the same time as the CSU audit, an audit of the UC system revealed, among other things, that “the Office of the President’s executive and administrative salaries are significantly higher than comparable state employee salaries.”

Last year, the 23,000 members of the California Faculty Association threatened to strike for five days as part of their “Fight for Five” campaign which demanded a 5 percent raise for faculty on par with the rising cost of living and inflation.

“…In addition to funding new enrollments, we know that the CSU is spending more money on more and more highly paid administrators, in other words, managers who don’t teach,” they wrote on their website during the collective bargaining period.

“[The audit] raises questions with us about the misplaced priorities,” said CFA Vice President and CSU East Bay teacher Kim Geron. “We don’t get enough funding yet we bring in more and more students. You know at Long Beach, that place is packed with students,” he said. “If we don’t get more resources, hiring a few less managers isn’t going to make much difference.”

Toni Molle, CSU spokesperson, told the Press-Enterprise the CSU hired 849 new tenure-track faculty in 2015-16 and 854 newly hired faculty in 2016-17. With sufficient funds, the CSU plans on hiring at least 750 additional faculty for 2017-18.

Last month, the Board of Trustees approved the first tuition hike in six years, citing an attempt to meet demands for more enrollment, faster graduation rates, faculty hires and establishment of support systems to fight achievement gaps among different groups of students. 

According to Geron, the CSU audit is only a peek into the CSU’s wider problem: lack of state funding.

“We’re in this chronic underfunding of the CSU and we’re just trying to dig ourselves out of it,” he said. “The audit showing up just shows that [the Board of Trustees are] tone deaf to student needs. Students want more classes and student services. A manager may or may not help that directly. [Student needs] should be the priority, everything else should come second.”

In his response to the audit, White pointed out that the report failed to mention that other personnel groups, including student employees and academic and healthcare support, grew more than management personnel and that nearly 60 percent of the management personnel category includes those who work directly with students to help increase graduation rates.

According to Geron, more managers may not be the answer to better graduation rates.

While managers may play a role in departments such as advising, “most students have no contact at all with most managers,” he said. “They’re more interested in what classes are offered and are still open. We should be providing the education so that they can graduate. Put more money in the classroom.”

The CSU Graduation Initiative 2025, launched in January 2015, aims to increase its students’ four-year graduation rate from 19 percent to 40 percent by 2025. One of their methods includes “the hiring of more tenure-track faculty and more support and counseling staff.”

“[The hiring of more management personnel] would be justifiable if they could prove that them being there improved graduation rates and prevented students from failing classes,” Alberto Rojas-Duran, a student at San Diego State University who says that he has seen similar trends at his school of “an overabundance of unnecessary administrative costs with little to no explanation or reasoning for having them.”

“Simply saying it without supporting it sounds like another excuse attempting to justify administrative increases and further inflating the budget needed to keep their payroll,” he said.

As part of its audit recommendations, the state is requiring an annual report from the CSU detailing specific actions they have taken to meet state goals for student success in the past year.  

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