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Cuomo asks SUNY, CUNY to rein in six-figure administrative salaries

Zack Seward
SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher is the second-highest paid public employee in New York, raking in $654,901.

The State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) are drawing criticism from Gov. Andrew Cuomo for their administrative salaries. Some of the highest-paid employees at the publicly funded universities earn more than $400,000, at the same time that tuition is rising. 
The New York State Legislature's joint budget hearings will focus on higher education Monday and SUNY and CUNY administrative salaries will be front and center. United University Professions (UUP) President Frederick Kowal, who represents 35,000 faculty and professional staff at colleges and universities in New York, said the group plans to call out the high pay in their testimony.

"There is this national trend where administrative salaries seem to be rising and costs seem to be rising at the same pace as tuition, while faculty and staff salaries have been stagnant," Kowal said.

According to Kowal, 30 percent of SUNY's teachers are adjunct professors who earn about $3,000 per course. Meanwhile, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher makes $654,901. And, 43 of the top-50 public earners in New York work for SUNY or CUNY, all of whom make more than Cuomo and President Barack Obama.

"We think that the governor was correct to raise the issue of administrative salaries and we agree that resources need to be in the classroom since, at the present, between 65 and 70 percent of the cost of a SUNY education is paid for by tuition and the remainder is made up with state dollars," Kowal said.

Cuomo is asking the SUNY and CUNY's chancellors to reduce their administrative costs. He said those "exorbitant" salaries come from "the pockets of struggling students and taxpayers." New York taxpayers are SUNY's single largest source of revenue and their share of the SUNY budget is increasing. The state appropriated $3.14 billion for SUNY in fiscal year 2015, or 31 percent of the system's total income. Tuition there has also risen an average of $300 dollars in recent years. SUNY Oswego graduate student Shayna said the cost of her education is insane.

"If I can help another student -  it’s great," Shayna said. "I’m more than willing to donate to that cause, but I’m not necessarily willing to donate to lining administrator’s pockets."

SUNY declined to comment on this story. But, Zimpher recently sent campuses a letter defending the administrative pay. She said that overhead only accounts for 6 percent of the overall budget and those salaries are in line with what competitors pay.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.