Elliot Hirshman
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San Diego State president Eliot Hirshman, formerly known as the $400,000 man, is likely about to get yet another bump in his annual base pay, making him the newly minted $420,000 man.

According to an item on the July 21 agenda of the California State University board of trustees, the compensation of SDSU's chief is being raised $8240, from $412,000 to $420,240, continuing his reign as the highest-paid California state university president.

The next highest-compensated of the 23 university heads, each of whom would each receive 2 percent raises if the trustees approve, is San Luis Obisbo's Jeffrey Armstrong at $399,228.  Lowest among the academic executives is Thomas Cropper of the state Maritime Academy, at $262,650. 

Karen Haynes of San Marcos is down for $284,259.

"In many employee groups at the CSU, salaries lag behind market comparisons," says a report accompanying the wage-raising proposal. 

"This observation is exaggerated in the executive employees, where the average gap approximates 25% behind market."

It was less than a year ago, in November 2014, that Hirshman and fellow presidents and university executives got a 3 percent raise. The SDSU chief received a $12,000 hike, increasing his base pay from $400,000 to $412,000.

$50,000 of Hirshman's salary is furnished by "foundation sources”; the rest, including the raises, is bankrolled by state taxpayers.

"This will be the first salary increase for executive positions since July 2007," said a November 2014 memo to the trustees from chairman Lou Monville, chancellor Timothy White, and vice chancellor for human resources Lori Lamb.

But based on the report accompanying this year's proposed raises, the days of paltry pay hikes for the six-figure workers could soon be drawing to an end.

"It will be Chancellor [Timothy] White’s recommendation that, in connection with an overall compensation strategy, that the Board also ‘reexamine’ in the next few months the presidential compensation policy and make such changes as are appropriate," says the document.

"Chancellor White will continue to evaluate equity and market issues related to executive compensation and will bring further recommendations to the Board at a future date."

Speaking of White, he'll be getting his own 2 percent increase of $8446, bringing his total base compensation to $430,746, a little over $10,000 more than Hirshman's.

Hirshman's original $400,000 salary — $100,000 more than his predecessor's — was severely criticized by governor Jerry Brown after it was approved by university board of trustees in July 2011, coinciding with a 12 percent tuition hike.

Last year's Hirshman pay jump also aroused ire from critics, coming as it did after he spearheaded a new "student success fee," needed, he said, due to the school's "limited resources."

"We have addressed this challenge by seeking cost efficiencies and increasing revenues from diverse sources, including private fundraising, non-resident student tuition and our auxiliary organizations," Hirshman said on his campus blog.

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monaghan July 20, 2015 @ 10:56 p.m.

Who are these bought-and-paid-for charlatans who are always "reporting" that Cal State University executive compensation "lags 25% behind market?" It's always the same story: "market" forces drive these huge salaries and therefore they should be raised. Nothing about propriety, proportionality, holding the line in the name of a greater good.

It's the same business-model argument used to justify too much money for school board campaign contribution limits, city council members, anyone in a top public sector position who's looking to justify a salary bump. It's a disgrace. I'm waiting to hear our SDSU President Hirshman say, "Oh no, thank you, I couldn't possibly accept that raise, really." When we hear that, we'll know we have a quality guy on the job.


boemac July 21, 2015 @ 9:33 a.m.

We have to pay more to get the best people is a bunch of crap. There are tons of people that could do Hirshman job better and for less money. The more money your reports get seems to mean the boss should get more money. It's a dumb game that needs to be stop. If he doesn't like working for a smaller amount he needs to find another job.. We should be cutting pay across the whole management team at all state schools.


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