uc salaries: 3,650 earn more than $200,000...

- By Fermin Leal -
The OC Register

About 3,650 people in the University of California system earned more than $200,000 each in 2008, while overall salaries grew by 17 percent since 2006, according to new figures provided by the UC Office of the President.

Increased staffing for enrollment growth, competitive pay for top talent and high salaries for doctors who receive extra compensation from various sources all contributed to the increase, officials said.

The figures also predate much of the current economic crisis facing the state, which is now prompting massive budget cuts throughout the nation's most prestigious public university system.

In all, there were 254,095 people in the UC payroll system, earning a total of $9.6 billion for the 2008 calendar year. That includes employees at 10 campuses, plus medical centers and the administrative offices in Oakland. That's up from 250,605 people earning $8.9 billion in 2007 and 243,743 employees earning about $8.2 billion in 2006.

Pay ranges from millions of dollars for people like Berkeley football coach Jeff Tedford and UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland, who earned $2.3 million and $2.1 million, respectively, to food service workers and janitors who earn $21,000 annually and would qualify for food stamps and other government subsidies.

But the best paid are doctors. Nine of 10 of employees earning more than $200,000 annually are doctors who also often hold department chairmanships and other leadership positions. At UC Irvine, 346 employees grossed $200,000 and above, including 17 doctors who grossed $500,000 or more.

Pay for doctors at the University of California is so complicated that the system publishes a 23-page document describing how it works. Essentially, physicians get a base salary from the state as faculty members, income that is eligible for retirement benefits.

Doctors also get widely varying amounts of additional salary, bonuses, overtime and negotiated payments from the hospitals where they work. Doctors and other UC employees also can receive money through research grants, private gifts and payments from foundations.

Doctors generally get paid to work on 12-month schedules, while most professors and other staff are paid for working nine-month schedules. The university's medical centers also generate profits, which help pay for the high salaries and provide funding for other university-wide resources, officials said.

Still, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – a frequent critic of UC salaries – said he's bothered by the doctors and other staff of public schools earning such high amounts. "Working at the UC should not be about getting rich," he said. "It's about giving back to the community and giving back to students."

Yee authored a bill earlier this year that sought to limit pay increases for UC executives during economic downturns. The bill was vetoed by the governor. "It's interesting to note these exorbitantly high salaries when other state agencies are reducing salaries," he said.

From 2006 to 2008, the number of employees for the UC grew by about 4 percent, while salaries have increased by 17 percent. In the same time, enrollment at UC schools grew from 209,080 to 226,040 students, or about 8 percent. Officials said built-in cost-of-living increases, merit-based raises, along with the increased enrollment have led to higher pay and more overall employees. On average, one new faculty job is created for every 23 new students, officials said.

Herb Killackey, vice provost for academic personnel at UC Irvine, said the university system tries to keep faculty salaries on par with other prestigious public and private schools nationally, including the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University. Killackey said the universities are also often competing with businesses for top talent, especially in fields including engineering, economics and computer science.

"A lot of it is market driven," he said. "We have to be able to pay some of these professors close to what they can make somewhere else." Karen Anderson, a researcher with the College Board, said that although some of the top salaries seem high, overall salaries for the UC system shouldn't surprise most people.

"UC schools are among the best universities in the country," she said. "In order to keep at that level, schools need to pay salaries accordingly." Anderson also said California's high cost of living also contributes to UC salary figures.

UC officials said salary figures for 2009 and 2010 are likely to level out or even decrease as the state continues to siphon funding from the university system.

The university system has lost $800 million in state funding since 2008, forcing campuses to lay off about 2,000 employees, reduce faculty pay through furloughs and cut courses and other programs and services to students.