When people hear about university administrators earning more than half a million dollars annually, they might think the administrators work for a private university. Collectively, the University of Oregon’s 11 administrative leaders earn more than $2 million in salaries and car allowances. This may be unsustainable with a dwindling in-state undergraduate population.
According to a 2016 Washington Post article, the University of Oregon “embarked on a campaign to boost out-of-state and international enrollment.” To be fair, the Oregon State Legislature has been decreasing education funding for some time, as mentioned by President Schill last year when he tried to save face with the students after announcing a steep tuition hike.
UO Vice President for Admissions Roger Thompson brought up the issue of lower graduation rates in high school, asserting that these reasons were “not an excuse or crutch.” But is the UO really doing all it can to boost in-state enrollment? One can understand that bringing in more out-of-state students would boost the university’s total revenue, but once the university started its recruitment drive for more out-of-state students, I think that the UO should have announced plans to privatize the university. Why should the Oregon taxpayers have to support a university that won’t be educating many of their fellow residents anyway?
Students would benefit in several ways. Smaller class sizes would be an obvious benefit. Another would be that the university would have more power to experiment with ways to keep costs down for students that cannot afford an education otherwise. If the university truly cares about its students, it should at least explore becoming a private university.
A private university is not the same as a private college, such as Reed College, with under 2,000 students. A private university is much bigger, which may help keep tuition lower than a conventional private school. Students and parents can also apply pressure on the university to ensure that any increase in tuition is actually needed. Currently, only the state has such power.
Vice President for Student Life Dr. R. Kevin Marbury mentioned in an email about the Genocide Awareness Project – a display visiting campus that compared abortion to genocide – on Monday that the university cannot restrict certain kinds of speech due to its public university status. While I fully support free speech in every peaceful form, I’m sure the university would like to be able to tell the anti-abortion group not to use graphic images to get their point across. As a private university, it could easily have that power and right to do so.
Recently, the university made a decision to meet one of the demands made by the Black Student Task Force by not only implementing a new class, but also hiring UO professor Debra Thompson in order to meet another demand to hire more Black faculty. Professor Thompson stated that a course like this was a huge success at Northwestern University, a private university. The university caters to a lot of minority groups on campus, both racial and ideological. But it sidelines conservative students. This sort of selective support for minority groups, as well as hiring new faculty based on race, is something that I would expect at a private university, not a public university that is supposed to stay politically neutral.
Unfortunately, if anybody who could potentially benefit from the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) had a say in whether or not the university were to privatize, I don’t think it would ever happen. Full formula tier one PERS, which is what former Duck football coach Mike Bellotti receives, is a decent percentage of one’s last salary while they were employed by the state. That said, The Oregonian reports that Bellotti brings in about $45,645 per month in retirement. Michael Schill makes $660,000 per year plus a $14,000 car stipend. Based on his salary alone, if he were to retire with a similar benefit, he would receive a monthly benefit of $23,100.
Even Oregon Governor Kate Brown earns less than $100,000 per year. For perspective, 36.01 percent of American wage earners made less than $20,000, and 49.31 percent earned less than $30,000, all in 2016. Let that sink in the next time President Schill and the UO administration announces that the university must raise tuition.