Virginia University Officials Pocket Fat Cash While Students Get Crushed by Debt

According to a report from The College Fix, 80 percent of Virginia’s highest paid state employees are public university staffers.

Most of these individuals enjoy six-figure salaries, with one raking in over a million dollars per year.

Through Virginia’s Freedom of Information law, The Richmond Times-Dispatch was able to acquire state employees’ salaries. The paper highlighted how 19 of the top 25 highest-paid state employees work at public institutions of higher education.

The highest earner was Michael Rao, the president of Virginia Commonwealth University, who makes over $1 annually. Nine of the highest salaried public employees are employed at the University of Virginia, which is one of the state’s top public universities.

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The UVA president makes over $960,000 per year, while the school’s chair of the Department of Surgery makes about $630,000.

Virginia Tech’s Vice President for advancement makes over $676,000 per year.

A campus spokeswoman for Virginia Tech, Tracy Vosburgh, defended the lucrative payouts stating that Virginia Tech is an “academically rigorous Research One Institution” and is “the land grant for the Commonwealth” that “strive[s] to have salaries that are competitive with our peers to attract and retain the best.”

She later added in a comment to The College Fix:

This list shows that Virginia Tech has attracted among the nation’s best in a few key positions at the highest level. The leadership at Virginia Tech has played a key role in the growth and economic stability of Roanoke and the region, the successful bid to bring Amazon and vital job growth to Northern Virginia and has positioned the university and the region in a strong position to educate and prepare the next generation in Virginia.

Laura Osberger, a spokeswoman for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, responded in defense of the high salaries of the leaders of colleges and universities:

College presidents manage multi-million and sometimes billion-dollar enterprises that affect the lives of thousands of people. Thus, college and university compensation is a factor of a competitive market and complex work. In Virginia, the Boards of Visitors of our public higher education institutions negotiate the compensation packages of presidents.

Osberger cited a report from The Chronicle of Higher Education, which lists the salaries of various university presidents from around the country, noting that “We know that universities also compete for top faculty, particularly in areas where they can bring high amounts of research funding to the institutions.”

This list also illustrates how much salary increases have risen in short periods of time for these employees.  Rao’s salary for the 2009-2010 fiscal year was listed $488,500. From that time forward, his has increased by nearly 110 percent.

These numbers show how bloated university bureaucracy has become during the last few decades. Since the government has gotten involved in the student loans industry, the cost of tuition has skyrocketed.

According to a study the National Bureau of Education Research (NBER) undertook, average net tuition rose 106 percent from 1987 to 2010 when accounting for inflation.

The government’s loan guarantee and subsidy policies has generated an artificial demand for higher education. Consequently, universities like Virginia Tech and UBA have exploited this rise in demand by increasing tuition rates.

Due to perverse incentives that the federal government has created, universities now funnel their money into massive administrative bureaucracies. The classroom becomes a complete afterthought in these cases.

Basic economics dictates that the more a government subsidizes a good or service the more expensive it ends up being thanks to the increased demand. The logical result is a more bureaucratized college experience along with the notorious piles of student debt that anchor many students.

A report from Student Loan Hero indicates that total student debt stands at a whopping $1.56 trillion.

This represents a massive injustice and shows how reckless governments and entities that partner with it—universities in this case—can be.

Higher education needs genuine market reforms for any semblance of affordable education to become a reality in America. At the same time, universities should be held accountable via the market or legal action for misleading students should there be any evidence of foul play.